Looking Back On Cape Cod Chamber Of Commerce’s 100 Years

Cape Cod was a backwater region of Massachusetts when the Cape Cod Chamber was formed on March 17, 1921. In fact, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts study researching “what to do” with Cape Cod recommended several ideas, including establishing a tourism industry. Thanks to the chamber’s promotional efforts, Cape Cod has not only become a world-class vacation destination, but also a one offering award-winning health care, quality education, vibrant cultural institutions and a strong entrepreneurial spirit. 

The newly minted Cape Cod Chamber, powered by business volunteers, pursued development of guest houses, resorts, golf courses and mosquito control to lure lucrative visitors, but also advocated for preserving the Cape’s historic character, which interested tourists. One of the first marketing efforts was a direct-mail campaign targeting New York City, still a main-stay market.

“Now on the chamber’s 100th birthday, business leaders are working on wastewater, housing and new canal bridges,” notes CEO Wendy Northcross, who is retiring this year.  “Their vision for the next century is a blue economy, one that diversifies employment, helps attract and retain young professionals and families and works to protect, study and enjoy salt and freshwater.”

Timeline 

1921

Business leaders form a regional chamber of commerce on March 17 and elect Admiral Francis T, Bowles as president.  First offices located in Barnstable Town Hall, now the JFK Hyannis Museum.

1927 

Chamber and Mass. Forestry Association form a task force to study forest fire prevention and reforestation. 

1929

Chamber raises $250,000 to create the Cape Cod Mosquito Control project, which continues to this day. 

1935

Canal widened and new bridges erected; the chamber successfully advocates for federal government control to assure maintenance of water and roadways.  

1930s 

Chamber issues crop yield reports including peaches and turnips.  Legislation filed to ban billboards on Cape Cod.

1932

Chamber membership drops from 400 to 40 during The Great Depression.

1946

Post-war inventory of accommodations, services and facilities for vacationers conducted.

1948

Month-long Cape Cod exhibition at Grand Central Terminal staffed by chamber office manager Doris Bassett promoted Cape Codder rail service and featured 100-feet of real Cape Cod sand.

1951  

Chamber president Benjamin Atwood promotes “Keep Cape Cod Clean” campaigns and calls for “Trash Slingers” fine. 

1950

Chamber relocates to a new building at the rotary at Route 6, West Barnstable.  Nine years later, Exit 6 would be installed In 2021, the exit is renumbered to 68.

1964 

Chamber advocates for a Cape Cod Planning and Economic Development Commission in county government to “preserve the character of Cape Cod.”  Chamber executive Norman H. Cook becomes first executive director of CCPEDC (forerunner of today’s Cape Cod Commission.)

1970

Michael Frucci becomes executive secretary.

1980s

Cape Cod experiences unprecedented growth of residential and commercial properties.

1990

CCPEDC becomes the Cape Cod Commission with regulatory power over land use.

1995

Route 25 Visitor Center, located 3 miles from the Bourne Bridge, opens.  Former Sagamore Bridge info booth donated to Bourne Historical Society. It’s now on the grounds of Aptucxet Trading Post. 

1997 

Frucci retires, Wendy Northcross named interim executive director. 

1998

Northcross appointed to Community Working Group, which releases consensus land use planning for Mass. Military Reservation (now Joint Base Cape Cod.) 

1998

Chamber merges with county’s Cape Cod Economic Development Council.  John D. O’Brien becomes CEO and offices move to 307 Main Street, Hyannis (in a portion of the former Cape Cod Bank & Trust building.) 

2002 

Chamber CEO O’Brien retires and Northcross tapped to succeed him. 

2003

Chamber returns to its renovated  and expanded building near Exit 6 and constructs a new visitor center at same site. 

CC Chamber office2005

Chamber pushes workforce skills, creative economy effort, renewable energy, wastewater and transportation in addition to tourism promotion in its annual action plan. 

2009

Chamber advocates for new canal area bridges and road/pedestrian access after maintenance work causes unprecedented backups and delays.  

2009

Annual Quahog Day launched on the first day of summer, to promote the number of beach days ahead.

Quahog day launched

2010 

On Feb. 26, Patti Page Way is named after the artist who made famous the song “Olde Cape Cod”.  

2012

In March, the board of directors voted to create the Wastewater Task Force, over concerns about pending lawsuits potentially forcing an overpriced and “under-scienced” solution on Cape Cod.  

2013

Back to Business Bash features a pirate theme for the chamber’s networking presence. 

2014

In November, groundbreaking for major renovation at Patti Page Way offices. 

2015

New Sandy Neck Conference Room opens. Chamber crew travels to Beacon Hill for  State House Day to promote tourism.

2015

The Blue Economy Project is launched alongside a Creative Economy Initiative including public art installations. 

2017 

Annual public policy briefings with elected officials. 

2018 

Chamber wastewater task force and Cape legislators craft and pass law for Cape Cod & Islands Water Protection Trust Fund to build wastewater systems.  and alleviate tax burden on residents. 

2019 

First grants totaling $71 million dollars flow to Cape towns from the Water Protection Trust Fund, saving property tax payers the same.

2020 

In a virtual ceremony, Gov. Baker, Mass DOT and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers agree to build/maintain new canal bridges and adjacent ways for bikes/pedestrians/vehicular roads. Federal infrastructure funds are the last piece of the puzzle. 

Chamber helps form and facilitate a regional COVID-19 Response Task Force – navigating 15 months of the public health crisis causing business closures and restrictions. Task Force touted as a model of collaboration. 

2021

The Blue Economy Project constructs Expedition Blue – 10 waypoints in towns across the Cape and Islands showcasing the Cape’s  special connection to the water, from both social and economic perspectives.   

In June, the federal INVEST in America Act includes language that allows new bridges to be considered for funding passes in the U.S. House.  

Chamber Executive Director Wendy Northcross named Mercy Otis Warren Cape Cod Woman of the Year 

Northcross retires after 24 years at the chamber and Paul Niedzwiecki, former executive of the Cape Cod Commission, is selected as next CEO as of July 1.

Wendy Northcross Mercy Otis Warren


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