Plymouth, Massachusetts, (population 492,066) was founded in 1620 by English settlers known as Separatists, who had fled England to establish a Utopian community where they could practice their religion freely. While on board the Mayflower, they established the rules for governing the new colony. Known as the Mayflower Compact, the agreement became America’s first legal document of democratic governance in the New World.
As the Separatists established their community, Plymouth quickly grew in power and dominance. Puritanism was the overriding religious force within the Bay Colony, and Plymouth was the epicenter of this movement. Eventually, however, Plymouth’s significance waned, and Boston became the new political power within the greater Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Throughout the 19th century, Plymouth thrived as a center of rope making, fishing, and shipping. Plymouth once was home to the world’s largest rope making business, the Plymouth Cordage Company, which employed many immigrants who settled in the town from 1824 to 1964.
Today, Plymouth continues to have a small but active harbor. Tourism is an important industry, and Plymouth attracts thousands of tourists every year to such famous attractions as Plymouth Rock, the Mayflower II, the Pilgrim Hall Museum, and Plimoth Plantation. The Plymouth Historic District is one of the oldest in Massachusetts and today is comprised of 286 properties representing architecture from the 17th through early 20th centuries.
Pilgrim Hall Museum, originally constructed in 1824, has recently been renovated and expanded. It holds such historical treasures as William Bradford’s Bible, Myles Standish’s sword, the cradle of New England’s first-born baby, and the earliest sampler made in America. Several times a year, visitors to Plymouth can witness a reenactment called the Pilgrim Progress. Each of the 51 participants in the Pilgrim Progress portrays a specific survivor of Plymouth Colony’s first winter in 1620-1621, following the arrival of the Mayflower. The Progress re-enacts the group’s assembly and march to worship on Burial Hill.
Designated a Preserve America Community in October 2009.
For more information
Town of Plymouth Historic District Commission
Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary: Maritime History of Massachusetts