Particulars: Seasonal restrooms, showers and changing rooms. The Old Harbor Life-Saving Station is located at Race Point Beach, and is open seasonally.
Directions: Located at the end of Race Point Road, off of Route 6 in Provincetown.
The lifesaver's motto was, You have to go, but you don't have to come back. Likewise, their work earned them the title, "Guardians of the Ocean Graveyard" while they were stationed on Cape Cod between 1872 and 1915.
Outer Cape Cod and its ever-changing sandbars posed hazards to mariners before the opening of the Cape Cod Canal. The Cape has been the site of more than 3,000 shipwrecks in 300 years of recorded history. It is the shallow sand bars several hundred yards off the beach that present the greatest danger. Here is where storm-driven ships ground, break into pieces under the pressure of tons of raging water, and spill their fragile contents and occupants into the bone-chilling surf.
In 1785, the Massachusetts Humane Society initiated the world's first organized lifesaving service. Starting in Boston Harbor with shelters and food for shipwreck survivors, the Society eventually established outposts on Cape Cod in the early 1800s. Whereas their methods and equipment were well-intended, the Humane Society members were unpaid volunteers who could not provide continuous or adequate services.
In 1845, Congress took the first step toward meeting the nationwide sea rescue problem by funding private organizations like the Humane Society. In 1872, the first federally constructed and staffed lifesaving stations emerged as part of the Department of Treasury, and later under the auspices of the U. S. Life Saving Service. Thirteen stations were built on Cape Cod. The Old Harbor station, relocated from its eroding perch in Chatham to Race Point in 1977-78, serves as a museum dedicated to the service and the men who risked their lives to save others.
Last updated: August 9, 2020