A major goal of the Orleans Historical Commission is to establish a historic district on Main Street in East Orleans. This district could include the 1.2 mile stretch of Main Street from the Methodist Church at the intersection with Route 28 and Main Street, to the Barley Neck Inn, or some portion therein. The purpose of this district would be to provide protection to what is one of the last remaining large historic streetscapes, preserving the heritage, character, and look and feel of our Town.
Main Street in East Orleans was historically the institutional, ecclesiastical, and civic center of the town and it retains multiple high-style and large-scale buildings of these use types. The area also contains a well-preserved, cohesive collection of historic residences from the early-19th century to the mid-20th century, reflecting the period of prosperity from the fishing and agricultural industries up to the emergence of the seasonal tourist economy.
There are 46 properties in the proposed district area that are listed on the Orleans Historic Property survey, as well as two cemeteries and three historic monuments. As a whole, the streetscape possesses integrity of location, design, setting, material, workmanship, feeling, and association. The designation of this area, or portion thereof, would be a significant step in preserving the historic character of Orleans.
The establishment of a historic district requires strong public support, and ultimately must be approved at Town Meeting. To that end, the Select Board working with the Orleans Historical Commission has appointed a Study Committee as required by state law to establish the district. The process includes holding a series of public forums to seek citizen input on a potential district. Orleans has seen significant degradation of our visible history in recent years in the form of the loss of historic buildings. This proposed district is an effort to preserve some of the elements that make Orleans unique without placing onerous burdens on property owners.