Hidden History

Hidden History, produced by WCAI Morning Edition co-host Brian Morris, focuses on lesser-known historic events, places and people from around Cape Cod, the Islands and the South Coast.

You can hear Hidden History during every other Monday during Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

Have a great idea for a Hidden History story? Send Brian Morris an email.

Brian Morris WCAI

The First Baptist Church in New Bedford is one of the city’s most important landmarks. The church was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 to commemorate an event that occurred there over 150 years ago. 

Brian MorrisWCAI

With the approach of Patriot’s Day, seven Provincetown men will be honored nearly 240 years after they had served in the Revolutionary War. The seven men are interred at the Winthrop Street cemetery – the oldest in town - and their service was discovered almost by accident, as part of an effort to identify notable people buried there.

Huffington Post

“America the Beautiful” has endured for more than a century as one of our country’s best-loved patriotic songs. It began as a poem written by Katharine Lee Bates, who was born in Falmouth and spent much of her life as a teacher at Wellesley College.

Brian Morris/WCAI

In the early 1900’s, Acushnet Avenue in the North End of New Bedford was a hub of entertainment, with a number of theaters offering vaudeville, comedy acts, exotic dancing and other types of live shows. There was the Idle Hour. Allen’s Theater. The Comique. And the Cordelia Vien Theater, named for a local businesswoman, Cordelia Vien.

Barnstable Patriot

Just north of Route 6-A in West Barnstable, a narrow path runs through a nature preserve to the edge of what looks like a pond. It’s actually the flooded clay pit from the West Barnstable Brick Company, the ruins of which lie just out of view on the opposite side.

Chatham Historical Society

In May, 1915, a German U-boat sank the ocean liner Lusitania, killing almost 1,200 people and causing great alarm throughout the U-S shipping industry, where vessels were suddenly vulnerable up and down the Atlantic seaboard. The government responded by setting up a series of air stations along the east coast to defend against the growing threat. One of these facilities was built on a flat, 20-acre site in North Chatham.

Brian Morris/WCAI

On the frigid first weekend in January, crowds gathered inside the large gallery at the New Bedford Whaling Museum for the 22nd annual Moby Dick Marathon. Over a 24-hour period, more than 200 narrators took turns reading excerpts from the novel “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville.

Brian Morris

During the recent Christmas Stroll on Nantucket, throngs of people milled around the intersection of Main and Federal Streets awaiting the arrival of Town Crier Eric Goddard to officially kick off the festivities.

Goddard is the latest in a long line of town criers on the island. And he looks every bit the part, with a top hat, bell, and a scarf that was knitted by his mother for Christmas Stroll.

“This scarf’s probably ten feet long. And I wear this once a year on Christmas Stroll Saturday,” Goddard said.

Brian MorrisWCAI

Cape Cod’s fire towers –like the one at Howlands Park Hill in Falmouth - have played a major role in helping to detect fires for over a century – and today they’re used in much the same as they always have been.

Joshua Nigro is a District Fire Warden with the State Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Brian MorrisWCAI

An archaeological dig in North Chatham recently uncovered the original homestead of two of Chatham’s earliest white residents, William and Anne Busby Nickerson. They built their house on a site near Ryder’s Cove in 1664, but the site was never preserved, and gradually was reclaimed by the surrounding land.

About 20 years ago, the Nickerson Family Association established its headquarters near where they believed William and Anne’s homestead had stood. They undertook the recent archaeological dig to try and pinpoint the exact location.

Brian Morris/WCAI

Nathan and Polly Johnson were two of New Bedford’s leading abolitionists in the mid-1800s. It was in their house that a 20-year-old Frederick Douglass found refuge after fleeing slavery on a Maryland plantation.

Brian Morris/WCAI

The mural at the Cape Cinema movie theater is one of the Cape’s largest, most unusual works of art.

The Cape Cinema opened in June, 1930. It was built by Raymond Moore, who had established the Cape Playhouse in 1926, then decided to build a movie theater nearby.

Brian Morris/WCAI

In Woods Hole, just outside the village, a futuristic-looking dome stands on a hill behind a clump of trees. It's a geodesic dome designed in 1953 by Buckminster Fuller, the progressive architect known for conceiving structures using fewer materials—doing more with less. He was hired to create an eye-catching addition to a restaurant on the site, which was owned by Gunnar Peterson.

Harwich Historical Society

Cape Cod has been well documented through the years by both amateur and professional photographers. Among the most fascinating images of the Cape are those taken when the area was beginning to emerge as a tourist destination for average Americans – when more and more people owned cars and could afford to take vacations. The Brooks Academy Museum in Harwich is currently displaying a collection of photos taken during the 1930s by Harwich photographers Lawrence Robbins and Alan Cahoon.

Nantucket Historical Association

Annie Nahar was born in 1844. Records of her life are spotty, but the little information available reveals a woman of remarkable courage.

Pages