(Map courtesy of the Boston Public Library)
Onset, part of the town of Wareham, is located on Buzzard's Bay. It is a village rich in history, and I could write pages about different times and events, and I apologize to any Onset experts who may read this as I can't include its entire history.
The view from the gazebo looking toward the Onset Harbor
It was known by several names: Pine Point, Pine Neck and Old Pine to name a few. In the 1800s, train service created the tourism business in Onset. People would come from Boston and other nearby areas via train or side-paddle steamship (Onset was once part of the route between New Bedford, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket) to enjoy the beaches. A large part of its history revolves around its origins as a large Spiritualist community (I put a reference link here because I had never heard of Spiritualists!). It was home to a spiritualist camp and mediums that reportedly could commune with the dead. Many of the cottages that still remain today were built by spiritualists as part of this movement.
In the middle of Onset Harbor sits Wicket's Island. This 5 acres island named for Jabez Wicket, a Wampanoag who once lived there in the 1700s. A large house occupied Wicket's Island from the 19th century until it was destroyed by fire in the early 1980s.
In 1946, a dramatic drop in tourism occurred. A woman who was kidnapped from one of Onset's dance halls was murdered, and although there was never a conviction in the case, the negative impact on Onset was undeniable. Onset's reputation became one of drinking, carousing and gambling - it was no longer known as a vacation spot for families. This downturn lasted for many years, and was worsened by the introduction of a major highway that routed traffic away from Wareham, Onset and Buzzard's Bay (until this time, people had to travel on Route 28, a local road that went directly through these communities, to get to the Bourne Bridge to Cape Cod).
The gazebo on the hill overlooking the beach and town pier
But Onset has made a comeback. Today it is home to hotels, restaurants, shops and a country club. During the summer and fall season, different festivals (including "Illumination Night" where the perimeter of the beaches are lined with torches - a beautiful site!) and events bring people into Onset, and the popular Cape Cod Canal Cruise leaves from its town pier.
Looking toward Wicket's Island on Illumination Night (July, 2009)
Looking toward Point Independence (March, 2010)
One of my favorite places to visit in Onset is Kenny's Salt Water Taffy, a shop that sells taffy, ice cream and burgers which has been in business since 1895. A trip to Onset is not complete without a stop at Kenny's! And if you are currently looking for a fun business opportunity, Kenny's is currently for sale.
Kenny's Salt Water Taffy
The same park, facing away (top) and toward (lower) Onset Harbor.
March and July look very different!
March and July look very different!
Onset is filled with benches in different areas - most being donated in the memory of people who spent time in this wonderful little village. The one below is perched high on the bluff overlooking the beach and Wicket's Island - its message says it all:
Placed in memory of Peter A. Gay, who perished on Flight 11 on September 11, 2001.
With spring and summer fast approaching, why not take trip to Onset and see it for yourself! Have an ice cream at Kenny's, take the historic walking tour, have a slice of pizza at Marc Anthony's, or board a Cape Cod Canal Cruise for a sunset trip down the Canal - the possibilities are endless!