History

Bourne in the 20th and into the 21st Centuries

For a true understanding of the past, it is necessary to preserve not only the places of historical significance, but also the written testimony as to their value. This testimony takes many forms, among which are town plats; real estate tax records; deeds; photographs, drawings and paintings; letters, diaries, and ledgers; and any and all written records pertaining to the site and its surroundings.

The history devotee may want to examine these items for research purposes. That is the reason for an historical commission.

The Bourne Historical Commission, along with the Bourne Archives, is housed in the Jonathan Bourne Historical Center- a building named after the town’s namesake. It is here that retired town records and other documentary resources about Bourne may be found. The Commission also disseminates the history of the town through a book publishing program and through assistance to the other historical groups in town. Five of Bourne’s villages have had histories of their communities printed: Bourne Village, a fine oral history reflecting the heart and soul of a Cape Cod village as it once was; Memories of Monument Beach, an ongoing story illustrating the expansive and often surprising history of Monument Beach; Bournedale, The Forgotten Village, a book that will allow the reader to “know” this village in a way a native would understand it; From Pocasset to Cataumet, a book which leads you to understand the origins and growth of a seaside community; and A Trip Around Buzzards Bay Shores, a 1903 pictorial trip through the villages that border Buzzards Bay from New Bedford to Woods Hole.

In addition to preserving town records and to its publishing program, the Historical Commission is engaged in a detailed inventory of sites in Bourne of historical significance – a program funded by a grant from the State Historical Commission. The inventory will be of great value to future historians.

Finally, in a further effort to tell the story of Bourne, the Commission has prepared and, upon request, presents slide-illustrated lectures on several of Bourne’s villages. These lectures are free and open to the public. See area newspapers for times and places.

The Jonathan Bourne Historical Center is a notable example of the skill of well-known architect Henry Vaughan. The 1896 building, originally built to be the Bourne town library, overlooks the Cape Cod Canal. It is a fine example of American Colonial (English Renaissance) style, featuring yellow tapestry brick and red slate roof construction along with large Palladian windows. A handsome stained-glass window depicting “St. Michael and the Dragon,” by Clayton & Bell of London, England, graces the former reading room. The building is worth at least a drive-by look, if an interior visit is not possible.