Salty Air Scenic Slide Shows

The Provincetown Monument: A History Lesson in 116 Steps

Written by Laura M. Reckford

ptowntower11PROVINCETOWN – There is the problem of the steps and the problem of the rain. The problem of the parking competes with the problem of the traffic.

But all that falls away when you arrive at the top of the 252-foot Pilgrim Monument.

Even on a rainy day from the narrow windows at the top of the structure, the bewitching curl of the Outer Cape is plain to see over 19th century spires and widow’s walks and past wharves and jetties.

The elegant Italianate structure–the Monument–gives the exclamation point to the reminder that on November 21, 1620, make no mistake about it: the Pilgrims landed here first.

They are said to have stayed a couple of weeks, before departing for Plymouth, but it was a busy two weeks.

Before coming ashore, they signed the Mayflower Compact, the first governing document of the Plymouth Colony.

Then the menfolk went searching for fresh water which they are said to have found at the still existing Pilgrim Spring, which is now a Cape Cod National Seashore trail. They are said to have met their first Native Americans at the appropriately-named First Encounter Beach in Eastham.

Meanwhile, the womenfolk did laundry–which is, all these years later, still a challenge in the laundromat-less Provincetown.

As can be seen in photographs in the museum next to the monument, the three-year construction of the tallest all-granite structure in the United States was bookended by President Theodore Roosevelt who laid the cornerstone in 1907 and President William Taft who presided over the dedication in 1910.

Towns, cities and Mayflower societies donated granite stones engraved with incorporation dates to show their support for the project–and perhaps for bragging rights. A popular pasttime while climbing the 116 steps is to find a favorite town’s stone, be it Falmouth–a very decorative seal–or Eastham, with a Native American profile, or the basic Boston stone, which solemnly and without ornamentation declares the city’s incorporation in 1630.


– Laura M. Reckford


About the author

Laura M. Reckford

Laura M. Reckford is co-founder of Cape Cod Wave. She has been a reporter and editor on Cape Cod for more than 20 years in magazines, newspapers and radio. She has also authored numerous Frommer's Travel Guide editions on Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.

1 Comment

  • Hi – I have shared your Provincetown Monument article on the Conant 400 Facebook page that I’ve started as a tribute to Roger Conant (159-1679), founder of Salem MA. I am a member of the Conant 400 group based in the village of East Budleigh, Devon, UK, birthplace of both Conant and Sir Walter Raleigh.

Leave a Comment

error: Content is protected !!