Dr. Maxine Minkoff is joining the Centers for Culture and History in Orleans (the CHO) as Executive Director, effective February 1. She brings more than four decades of teaching, administration, strategic planning and management consulting expertise to her new role. Living in Orleans, she also has been a visible proponent of town planning and activities that would enrich the educational and cultural experiences of residents and visitors alike.  

“We are extremely excited that Maxine is coming to the CHO at this important stage in our development,” said Board Chair Jay Stradal. “I am confident that her extensive experience, combined with the skills of our Executive Assistant Sherry Salerno, will help the CHO develop exciting new programs and services that appeal to broader interests. Maxine’s knowledge of Orleans and the needs of its residents will help us grow and better serve the town in representing its rich seaside heritage.”      

“I look forward to building on the hard work that has already been done at the CHO,” said Minkoff. “My new role is an opportunity to engage the community in finding new ways to bring the knowledge we have about Orleans’ past to citizens of all ages. I am excited to get to work in creating new opportunities for community members to come together to learn, to socialize, and to better understand how the past has influenced our lives today.” 

Most recently Minkoff chaired the Nauset Regional School District Strategic Planning Committee as a consultant after retiring in 2019 as Principal of the Nauset Regional Middle School in Orleans. During her nine-year tenure there she established many new math, science, technology and foreign language programs for students, and gained funding and community support for a high-tech greenhouse. Previously she was Assistant Superintendent in Sandwich, Deputy and then Interim Superintendent in the Wachusett regional school system, and served in various consulting and program director positions at the state and university levels after starting her career as a math teacher. 

Minkoff holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, master’s degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government, and a doctorate in education from Temple University. She has taught at Fitchburg State and Bridgewater State colleges and is the author/editor of many publications. She is a board member of the Orleans Citizens Forum and Orleans Pond Coalition, and a member of the town Charter Review Committee.

Old and new beams in the ceiling of the Hurd Chapel
The interior of the building mid-renovation, showing where the chimney was hidden in the paneled column behind and to the left of the workbench.
There is more Orleans history in the CHO’s Hurd Chapel than meets the eye. Now settled on its new cement foundation and undergoing renovations for year-round use, some of the historic building’s secrets are being revealed.

The chapel originally sat on the highest point of land in the Orleans Cemetery across Main Street from its current location on River Road. In 1979, the Cemetery Association decided to sell the chapel to the Orleans Historical Society, now the Centers for Culture and History in Orleans (the CHO), in the hope of preserving it. 
One of the chapel’s secrets appeared when a section of the ceiling was removed and wooden beams from two different eras were exposed. Some appeared to be original to the construction of the chapel in 1937, but others clearly were much older. Re-using lumber from previous structures was common when sawmills were scarce and most wooden timbers were hewn by hand, but that was not the case in the 20th century. Where did the older beams come from?

The mystery was solved by a newspaper article written some 83 years ago about the chapel’s dedication ceremony. The report said that when Flora Hurd died in 1935, she left a plot of land and a building next to the cemetery in which she and her sister, Emma, had lived and operated a millinery shop. Before that her father, Davis Hurd, had run a general store and livery business in the same building until his death in 1881. When the Hurd property subsequently was sold to the cemetery, Flora stipulated in her will that as much of the original building as possible should be used to construct the chapel honoring her parents. 

Another secret involved a small brick chimney sandwiched between the exterior and interior walls at the back of the building, leaving only the top visible above the peak of the roof. Perhaps a remnant of an original heating system, the chimney had to be removed before the chapel could be lifted onto its new foundation with a walk-out basement underneath. Much to everyone’s surprise, the chimney did not go straight down the middle of the back wall.

Contractors discovered that the chimney ran inside a paneled column several feet to the side of the chapel’s rear center line. Above the ceiling, it angled under the roof before exiting at the peak. No one is sure why the chimney took such a strange path, requiring some unusual masonry work, but perhaps it was to avoid dividing a center alcove where the altar might have stood. Fortunately, the chimney does not have to be rebuilt for the new HVAC system that will be installed.

Meanwhile, interior and exterior restoration work on the Hurd Chapel continues. Who knows what other secrets may come to light?  

Completion of the Hurd Chapel project will take about four more months. Most of the funding has been raised through grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Orleans Community Preservation Act and other private foundations and individual donors. However, about $400,000 is still needed to complete the connecting plaza and ramps in 2022, including brick pavers and landscaping. To donate and/or learn more about the CHO’s improvement projects, please go to [] or call the CHO at (508) 240-1329.
Resonant Past: Looking at 1620 in the Time of Coronavirus

Donna Curtin, Executive Director of Pilgrim Hall Museum, America’s oldest continuous public museum, reflects on early Plymouth history from the perspective of the pandemic challenge of 2020, focusing on reaction, resilience, and regeneration, and looks ahead to plans for 2021.

Dr. Curtin, guest speaker at our recent annual meeting, will also give an update on the Sparrow-Hawk.

so many books!
Boat Model
Dear CHO members & friends,

While the CHO remains closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we are responding to phone calls, emails and requests for research assistance. Members and friends will be updated by email, Constant Contact, and e-newsletters on the latest news from us. In the meantime, please stay healthy and safe!
Contact the CHO: 508-240-1329 -