Why you need to see America’s Hometown

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By Lisa K. Berton

America's Hometown, Plymouth, Massachusetts is commemorating the 400th anniversary of The Mayflower's journey and what would consequently become Plymouth Colony. Lead by the not-for-profit organization, Plymouth 400, Inc., the historic milestone includes collaborations with Wampanoag Nation, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.

Already underway are local events offered by those partnering with Plymouth 400, Inc. The group's signature events will occur throughout 2020 with the opening ceremony on April 24th.

As a result of the exciting and plentiful activities planned, Plymouth 400 welcomes volunteers. It is a great way for locals to get involved. Visitors who would like to lend a hand can also apply. Sign up for the newsletter to keep track of events.

Exterior of brick building with white columns.
Plymouth 400, Inc.'s offices are located inside Post Office Square.

Plymouth, currently the most populated town in Massachusetts is rich in history. Everyone from Charles Schulz (Peanuts) to James Dean (Pete the Cat) has relayed a telling of the first Thanksgiving.

The town's famous past consists of good intentions, greed, war, and a new government. Recognizing and acknowledging truth while celebrating what eventually lead to a new nation comes with understandable challenges.

I asked Brian Logan, Communications Manager for Plymouth 400 Inc., about growing up in Plymouth.

Do you think that your education about the Mayflower, Pilgrims and the indigenous peoples differed from those living in other parts of the United States?

Brian said, "I think that growing up in the area, we got a healthy dose of this history. We covered events and went on field trips. They always balanced our education of the Wampanoag people and Pilgrim story. And the more I got out of the area and went to college, the more I realized that not everyone got this level of education with a focus on colonial time. When I got into tourism, [it became clear] even more so."

One such place that Massachusetts schools bring kids to is Plimoth Plantation. While it is often utilized as a tool to teach elementary school-aged children about life in the 1600s, Plimoth Plantation is deeply beneficial for all ages.

Plimoth Plantation (featured image) is a living museum split into four different areas. Begin with a film in the Visitor Center playing repeatedly. Within this building, you will also find ticket sales, a cafe, gift shops, restrooms, and a variety of art pieces and artifacts. Whether you give them your attention at the start or end of your visit is up to you.

Inside the Craft Center, guests can watch American and British artists create pottery likened to what The Pilgrims brought with them. Meanwhile, Henry worked on a headdress. He used the peyote stitch with size-10 colored glass beads. Henry explained his personal history of learning how to create and repair headdresses at age 6. The Craft Center houses restrooms, a small cafe with Native foods, and another gift shop.

The most noteworthy and popular areas of Plimoth Plantation are Wampanoag Homesite and 17th-Century English Village. When you talk to the people you encounter, you will learn in ways that go far beyond school books.

At the Wampanoag Homesite, you'll meet Native People who are happy to answer questions. Visitors can learn how a mishoon (canoe) is carved from a member of the Nipmuc Nation. Maybe you'll meet a member of Massachusett Nation. The chefs in your household might be especially interested in what ingredients are needed to make nasaump, a cornmeal porridge.

An indigenous woman makes corn patties
Preparing a meal in the Wampanoag Homesite
A period costumed woman reaches over a wooden fence to unlock the gate
Unlocking the garden gate in the 17th-Century English Village

In the 17th-Century English Village, patrons are greeted by actors who portray those who arrived on the Mayflower. Each persona will chat you up. One such gentleman, Samuel Fuller, spoke with blatant disregard for the Native Nation, Massachusett, even making fun of the name. He went on to talk about his brother, studying medicine, and Leiden University in the Netherlands. His mannerisms and speech bore a resemblance to George Rose's role of Major General Stanley in "The Pirates of Penzance".

The Village includes small houses, gardens, and barnyard animals. Each house has 45 rows of gray wood boards and a thatch roof. Women bake bread and make patties out of "Indian corn," flour, and grits. A playroom is located in the house furthest away from the fort/meeting house.

The grounds are dirt paths with small hills. For those with physical limitations or disabilities, assistance is available to access all sections of Plimoth Plantation.

Another way to learn about life in the 1600s is to take a walking tour lead by a highly knowledgeable guide. The Jenney Museum offers Discover Plymouth's History - A Walking Tour. Spend over an hour with Leo exploring numerous points of interest near Plymouth Harbor and throughout the downtown area. Beloved by tourists and locals alike, Leo receives waves, car honks, and greetings from passersby.

man dressed in Pilgrim clothing
Your tour guide, Leo, from The Jenney Museum.

Throughout the tour, Leo will stop and tell you true stories regarding your present location. By the Grist Mill, you will learn about herring, a spring-fed river, and fish ladders. Created by the indigenous people, the process of making fish ladders was taught to the colonists. Of even greater importance is news of the location of the original plantation and how far off course the Mayflower sailed (and landed) before it landed in Plymouth.

Your guide will lead you to Brewster Garden, Plymouth Rock, the extremely well-detailed statue of Massasoit, and Leyden Street among other places.

Patrons will also learn of the final resting spot for the colonists that perished during the first winter. Your history lesson continues into the 1700s and 1800s along with architecture, and famous Pilgrim descendants.

Perhaps it is Leo's empathy for all those who suffered sickness, abuse, and hardships that make his tour different from all other history tours. There's certainly an abundance of information to absorb and think on both during and after the trek.

The Jenney Museum is your last stop. Information on the underground railroad and modern-day human trafficking fill the walls. Try to locate Leo in the wall puzzle inside the gift shop. Tourism is expected to soar in 2020. Reserve your walking tour as soon as dates are posted on The Jenney Museum's website.

tour group in front of statue
Leo leading the Forefathers Monument Tour.

Left: Chief Massasoit by Cyrus E. Dallon. The sculpture is nearly 100 years old. Right: Plymouth Rock sits on the sand and is surrounded by walls. It's been damaged.

Facing Plymouth Harbor, Hotel 1620 offers overnight guests modern amenities while paying homage to the men, women, and children who set out for the New World. Rooms are sizeable and offer balcony views of the indoor pool or harbor. From Hotel 1620, one can walk to many if not most of Plymouth's attractions, the downtown area filled with shops and restaurants. Because Plymouth Center sits higher than Plymouth Harbor, expect to walk up and downhill as you explore.

It seems like restaurants are also a major attraction. The variety and quantity close to Plymouth Harbor and along Court Street and Main Street are almost endless. European favorites like creamy shepherd's pie, Scottish salmon, sweet scones, eggs benedict, paella, manicotti, and corned beef hash are on the menu. Seafood lovers, above all, will be joyfully overwhelmed by fried clam bellies, succulent oysters, haddock, bread crumb-encrusted cod, scallops, and lobster (in season) every which way.

small round table with single rose in vase, and plate of French fries and a hamburger
Burger from The Bistro & Wine Bar
bowl of vegetables and ziti
Pasta Primavera from Mamma Mia's
whipped cream pile high beside a bowl of bread pudding
Irish bread pudding from Dillon's Local

Consumers equally will find European specialty shops in Plymouth Center and beyond. wool Irish sweaters, Norweigan cologne, Irish flat caps, and tweed caps fill shelves and tables at Teolai Irish Imports. Crisp, button-down collared shirts dress mannequins. And the friendly camera-shy Irish shopkeeper's accent is sure to make you smile.

Men and women who stop into the family-owned, Pilgrim's Progress, will find European fashion from places like Germany and Italy. The store features high-quality traditional and trendy styles for work and social affairs. Any of the sibling buyers and sellers can help you choose the perfect outfit or accessory.

Mrs. Unity Maclean has something in common with the goods she sells; they're both imported from Britain, hence the shop name, British Imports. Certainly, there is no shortage of a variety of products found. Flags, snacks, posters, keychains, banks, Royal Family collectibles, and everything you need for a proper tea party are under one roof.

Outdoor store display of Irish sweaters
Teolai is popular with the locals
Display of ladies hats and scarves
Accessories from Pilgrim's Progress
Books with British words and phrases
A few of the many and diverse items at British Imports

When the Mayflower left Plymouth, England with 102 passengers on board, it probably never crossed their minds that 400 years later they would have approximately 30 million descendants. Here we are in a time when affordable DNA test kits are sold in stores. If your heritage links back to a Mayflower passenger, you can fill out the application for the Mayflower Lineage Match here. It is the starting point for joining the General Society of Mayflower Descendants. Members can access exclusive functions in 2020.

Every year during the weekend before Thanksgiving, America's Hometown throws a party that includes a parade, concerts, food, drinks, and living history. This year they will kick off their 2020 festivities on November 22nd.

Revelers can expect a Plymouth 400 theme at First Night Boston 2020.

History buffs especially can keep busy for a week with museums, historic sites, and the ever-popular Mayflower II. But you needn't be a historian. The Bay State thrives on education. Consider yourselves cordially invited to participate in this once-in-a-lifetime anniversary commemoration and unique schoolroom called Plymouth, Massachusetts.

pebbled sidewalk with logo for 400th anniversary of Plymouth, MA

When you go...

The Bistro & Wine Bar (inside Mirbeau Inn)
35 Landmark Drive

British Imports
One Court Street

Dillon's Local
21 South Park Avenue

Hotel 1620
180 Water Street

The Jenney Museum
48 Summer Street
Walking Tour - $8 - $15

Mamma Mia's
122 Water Street

Pilgrim's Progress
13 Court Street

Plimoth Plantation
137 Warren Avenue
Admission $0 - $30

Teolai Irish Imports
17 Court Street

Thanks to Brian Logan of Plymouth 400, Inc., Nancy and Leo Martin of The Jenney Museum, Patty Mosesso of Hotel 1620, Plimoth Plantation, British Imports, Teolai Irish Imports, and Pilgrim's Progress.