Orleans MA

The Town of Orleans also includes East Orleans-02643 and South Orleans-02662
Orleans is a town in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, Barnstable County coextensive with Cape Cod. The population was 6,341 at the 2000 census.For geographic and demographic information on the census-designated place Orleans, please see the article Orleans (CDP), Massachusetts.


Orleans was first settled in 1693 by Pilgrims from the Plymouth Colony who were dissatisfied with the poor soil and small tracts of land granted to them. Originally the southern parish of neighboring Eastham, Orleans was officially incorporated in 1797. Orleans was named in honor of Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, in recognition of France’s support for the 13 colonies during the American Revolution, and because the town did not want an English name, as they had been captured twice by the British during the war. Early history, like much of the Cape, revolved around fishing, whaling and agriculture. As the fishing industry grew, salt works sprang up in the town to help preserve the catches. However, the town’s growth helped deplete the town of lumber, a situation that did not begin to be remedied until the railroad came and brought lumber from the mainland in the mid- to late-1800s. The rail also helped bring tourism to the town. The town’s tourism industry was helped in 1961 with the creation of the Cape Cod National Seashore by President John F. Kennedy.[1]

Geography and Transportation

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 54.6 km² (21.1 mi²). 36.7 km² (14.2 mi²) of it is land and 17.9 km² (6.9 mi²) of it (32.73%) is water. Nauset is bordered by Eastham to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the east, Pleasant Bay and the town of Chatham to the south, Harwich to the southwest, Brewster to the west, and Cape Cod Bay to the northwest. Orleans is twenty-seven miles south of Provincetown, twenty-two miles east of Barnstable, thirty-six miles east of the Sagamore Bridge, and ninety miles southeast of Boston. Orleans is located on the inner “elbow” section of Cape Cod. The town is dotted with bogs and ponds in the western part of town, with many inlets, islands and harbors along the eastern coast of the town, including Town Cove, Nauset Harbor, Pleasant Bay, and Little Pleasant Bay. Cape Cod National Seashore lies along the coast as well. Orleans is the site of the termini of Routes 6A, 28 and 39. Route 39 traces a portion of the Brewster town line, before ending at the intersection with Route 28. Route 28 ends at the intersection with Route 6A, and Route 6A ends at a rotary with Route 6 at the Eastham town line. Other than two small non-outleted lanes, only Route 6 and Bridge Road pass northward into Eastham. Orleans has no rail or air service in town. The nearest regional air service can be reached in nearby Chatham, and the nearest national and international airport is Logan International Airport in Boston.


The Orleans Inn, between Town Cove and Route 28.

The Orleans Inn, between Town Cove and Route 28.

As of the census2 of 2000, there were 6,341 people, 3,087 households, and 1,771 families residing in the town. The population density was 172.8/km² (447.3/mi²). There were 5,073 housing units at an average density of 138.2/km² (357.9/mi²). The racial makeup of the town was 97.57% White, 0.58% Black or African American, 0.17% Native American, 0.54% Asian, 0.14% from other races, and 0.99% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.77% of the population. There were 3,087 households out of which 14.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.4% were married couples living together, 6.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 42.6% were non-families. 37.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 21.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.00 and the average family size was 2.55. In the town the population was spread out with 13.8% under the age of 18, 3.5% from 18 to 24, 17.3% from 25 to 44, 29.4% from 45 to 64, and 36.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 56 years. For every 100 females there were 87.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.2 males. The median income for a household in the town was $42,594, and the median income for a family was $62,909. Males had a median income of $44,246 versus $30,017 for females. The per capita income for the town was $29,553. About 2.7% of families and 6.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.6% of those under age 18 and 5.6% of those age 65 or over.

Government, Services and Education

The Jonathan Young Windmill, a restored, working eighteenth-century windmill next to Town Cove.

The Jonathan Young Windmill, a restored, working eighteenth-century windmill next to Town Cove.

Orleans is represented in the Massachusetts House of Representatives as a part of the Fourth Barnstable district, which includes (with the exception of Brewster) all the towns east and north of Harwich on the Cape. The town is represented in the Massachusetts Senate as a part of the Cape and Islands District, which includes all of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket except the towns of Bourne, Falmouth, Sandwich and a portion of Barnstable.[2] The town is patrolled by the Second (Yarmouth) Barracks of Troop D of the Massachusetts State Police.[3]. On the national level, Orleans is a part of Massachusetts’s 10th congressional district, and is currently represented by Bill Delahunt. The state’s senior (Class I) member of the United States Senate, re-elected in 2006, is Ted Kennedy. The junior (Class II) Senator, up for re-election in 2008, is John Kerry. Orleans is governed by the open town meeting form of government, and is led by a town secretary and a board of selectmen. The town has its own police and fire departments, both headquartered south of the Route 6A-Route 28 intersection. There are three post offices, in East Orleans, Orleans Center and South Orleans. The Snow Library, named for the original benefactor of the library, is located in Orleans Center, and is supported by the Cape Libraries Automated Materials Sharing (CLAMS) network. The town also operates several beaches, boat landings, and small parks, and has a historical commision which meets in the town’s original meeting house (across the street from the current Town Hall). Orleans is also the site of a county courthouse, which serves much of the lower Cape. Orleans, along with Brewster, Eastham and Wellfleet, belongs to the Nauset Regional School District. Each town provides schooling for their own elementary students, and collectively send their middle and high school students to regional schools. Orleans operates the Orleans Elementary School for students from kindergarten through fifth grade. The town is home to Nauset Regional Middle School, which serves students from sixth through eighth grade for the district. High school students attend Nauset Regional High School in North Eastham, but also have the option of attending Cape Cod Regional Technical School in Harwich free of charge. Orleans is also the home of the Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School, which serves grades six through eight.


  1. ^ Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Street Atlas. South Easton, MA: Arrow Maps Inc., 2004, p. 70.
  2. ^ Index of Legislative Representation by City and Town, from Mass.gov
  3. ^ Station D-2, SP Yarmouth

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