A GLIMPSE OF SUMMER
After spending three years updating its facilities on River Road to make them more accessible and functional, the Centers for Culture and History in Orleans is ready to roar back when it is safe for people to gather again. Imagine what a summer week might look like after the pandemic.
A Sunday afternoon concert is being hosted by the CHO at its Meetinghouse, featuring an emerging young artist playing the resident Yamaha concert grand piano, one of the finest on the Cape. There is ample parking in the level, paved lot next to the Meetinghouse, and members and guests remark on the new brick sidewalk that leads to the front door and wider entranceway.
Inside, people are greeted by a CHO Board member or volunteer who invites them to enjoy a beverage and snack (donation suggested) from the remodeled food service area before taking a seat in new, comfortable chairs. Guests note the freshly painted floors and walls, yet the 1834 building retains its historical charm. Soon they experience the updated stage lighting and sound systems that make the concert more enjoyable. Afterwards, they linger to talk to the artist or view the history exhibits along the walls and side alcoves. Perhaps they notice the new ADA-compliant restroom that has been incorporated into the first-floor redesign.
Weekend afternoons also feature “Talk and Tours” of the famous CG 36500 lifeboat at Rock Harbor. Visitors are invited onboard for a tour while CHO volunteers describe its incredible story and why it is one of the few vessels listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
On weekdays, the Meetinghouse and renovated Hurd Chapel are bustling with activity. Visitors tour the main floor exhibits and perhaps a special art show in the balcony of the Meetinghouse, accessed by a new lift that bypasses the steep 19th-century stairway. In addition to CHO activities, other non-profits and groups have booked the spaces for their use. Larger gatherings are held in the Meetinghouse while smaller events take place in the Hurd Chapel that features flexible seating and a large conference table. Two bathrooms and another food service area make the Hurd a viable option for senior programs, after-school activities and other uses.
Several times a week people gather at the CHO to begin a narrated walk through the nearby Orleans cemetery, or along historic East Main Street. Also, there are presentations by noted experts on a variety of topics, and an occasional recital at the Hurd on the restored “Vocalion” reed organ that was originally installed in the Meetinghouse in the late 1800s.
Saturday is a big day as a couple and their families have reserved the Centers for an intimate wedding and reception. As the bride and bridesmaids get ready in the Hurd Chapel, up to 80 guests are seated in the Meetinghouse (also listed on the National Register of Historic Places). After the ceremony, a catered reception is held on the terraced lawn outside, supported by both the Meetinghouse and Hurd food service areas. In another year or two, a brick-paved plaza will be built that can be tented in case of bad weather.
Bringing Orleans culture and history to life for residents and visitors is what the CHO is all about, and hopefully it will not be long before that vision rings true again. For more information or to reserve a space at the CHO, please call 508-240-1329.