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The Pilgrim Monument

It's Not Where You Might Expect It To Be

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Pilgrim Monument Provincetown Cape Cod

The Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown commemorates the Pilgrims' first landfall in New England.

© 2000 Kim Knox Beckius
Updated November 04, 2013
American schoolchildren learn early on about the Pilgrims' treacherous, cross-Atlantic voyage aboard the Mayflower and their landing at Plymouth Rock in December of 1620, just in time for a long, hard New England winter.

You might expect, then, to find the Pilgrim Monument in Plymouth, Massachusetts, near other Pilgrim attractions such as the Mayflower II, a replica of the famous ship, and Plimoth Plantation, a living history museum that recreates early life in Plymouth Colony. Good thing this isn't a test... you would be wrong.

The Pilgrim Monument, made entirely of granite from Stonington, Maine, and, at 252 feet, the tallest all-granite structure in the United States, is located at the tip of Cape Cod in Provincetown. It is an often overlooked fact that the Pilgrims actually spent five weeks considering Cape Cod as their home before deciding, instead, to sail across Cape Cod Bay, where they found a more protected area for settlement at Plymouth.

If you visit Provincetown, Massachusetts, though, the towering Pilgrim Monument is a constant reminder of the truth--though Cape Cod didn't cut it, it was the site of the Pilgrims' first days in the new world.

On the same day the Pilgrims dropped anchor near Provincetown, the religious dissenters also signed the Mayflower Compact, considered the first written document establishing democratic self-government, and they sent their military captain, Myles Standish, and a small band of men ashore to check things out.

Unfriendly Indians and an inhospitable environment persuaded the Pilgrims not to hunker down in Provincetown. Today, they'd hardly recognize the site of their first landfall in the Americas, far north of their intended destination. The sandy dunes we equate with the Cape today were concealed beneath a layer of soil and a dense forest in 1620. Deforestation exposed the underlying sand, which then fell prey to the whims of wind and water. Of course, there weren't nearly as many shops, restaurants and inns in Provincetown when the Pilgrims arrived, either.

The ascent up 116 stairs and 60 ramps to the top of the Pilgrim Monument requires a bit of energy, but if you pass this endurance test, you'll be rewarded with spectacular views of the sand and the sea.

If you're going...

Location: The Pilgrim Monument is located on High Pole Hill at the intersection of Bradford and Winslow Streets in downtown Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Parking: Ample free parking is available at the Monument.

Admission: Admission is $12 for adults, $9 for seniors, $7 for students 15 and up, $4 for children ages 4 through 14 and free for children under age 4 (as of 2013).

Hours: The Pilgrim Monument is open to visitors daily from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. April through December 1 with extended hours until 7 p.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The Monument is illuminated each year for the holiday season, though it is not open during the months of December through March. In 2013, the lighting will take place on the evening of Wednesday, November 27, from 5-7 p.m.

For More Information: Call 508-487-1310.

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