Destination Guide for the New Plymouth
I t ’ s N o t Yo u r …. Forefathers’ Plymouth
~ by Maryellen Dever
If the Pilgrims were to see Plymouth today, they wouldn’t recognize it at first. The streetscapes have changed dramatically since their time, with cars replacing feet as the major mode of transportation, money replacing barter as the currency for business transactions. What the first settlers would recognize, though, is that Plymouth is still a vibrant hub of local business activity.
Take a stroll down Court and Main Streets, and the mix of activity is pure America. There are shops, bakeries, restaurants, pubs, and museums. There’s Memorial Hall, the town’s civic center and theater, which is home to the Plymouth Philharmonic Orchestra. Memorial Hall also has an active calendar of other events such as comedy shows, wrestling, and concerts. Then, there’s the New World Tavern, where you can relax while having the ultimate beer quest, sampling some of their 32 draft beers and 100 bottled beers from around the world.
Every side street on your left seems to lead straight down to Water Street, where there are more shops and restaurants. Walk down any one of those streets, and you’ll find old homes, seemingly built into the hillside, and more businesses to explore, like Dillon and Company, the award winning Antiques and Furniture Reproductions store on North St. Keep going down Main St., and on the corner of you’ll find Lily’s Apothecary, a New York-style emporium filled with beauty products that our “foremothers” could only dream of. At the corner near Burial Hill, check out world-famous Setting the Space Interiors’ showroom and talk to their design consultants!
Water Street is a beautiful walk along the edge of Plymouth Harbor. Along the way, there are tourist shops, more restaurants, historical sites, and several unique businesses such as Plymouth Bay Winery. Visitors to the Winery may taste four their unique wines at no charge, or all of their varieties for just $5, which includes a souvenir wine glass. Either way, you tap into the extensive knowledge, pairing suggestions, and unique recipes of owners Mike and Pam Carr.
Keep going down Water St. and you’ll be at the Town Pier. Along with the Visitors Center, you can refuel at upwards of a dozen restaurants and pubs along the water. Wood’s Seafood has fresh Plymouth-raised oysters, scallops and lobster right off the boat. If you’re there when the lobster boats come in, watch them being sorted according to size!
On the brink of its 400th anniversary as America’s Hometown, Plymouth is once again emerging as a hub of commerce for the lower South Shore and Upper Cape regions too. It is the largest municipality by area in Massachusetts, and by population, it is the second largest after Framingham. Plymouth’s population exploded between 1970 and 1990, from 18,606 to 45,608. As of the 2010 census, population was 56,468. By contrast, in 1920, the year of their 300th anniversary, Plymouth had 13,045 residents. Projected population in 2020 is 66,568, a five-fold increase.
The town and its Planning Board have spent the past few years updating Master Plans for the town for both residential and commercial development. The results have fueled Plymouth’s recent growth. In 1977, the original project produced the Planning Board’s Plymouth Village Centers Plan. The goal was to concentrate growth within five village centers and restrict development in outlying areas. Each village would have a central village green, a central institutional and industrial core, surrounded by residential building. The villages, North Plymouth, Plymouth Center, West Plymouth, Cedarville, and Manomet, each have a unique history and character, and would develop uniquely. The Pinehills, the award-winning smart-planning community off Clark Road was added as a sixth village growth area in 1999.
The innovative Pinehills is a textbook example of the Village Center concept. Its core is the Village Green, with its popular Marketplace, restaurants, professional offices, and shops. Their diverse demographics and neighborhoods, and two golf courses complete the vision.
North Plymouth’s character and history is at the other end of the spectrum. A well-established, working-class community, its heritage includes a working waterfront and commercial boatyard industry as well as Plymouth’s famous Cordage Company. The Plymouth Cordage Company, based in Cordage Park on Route 3A, literally built North Plymouth. From 1824 through the early 1900’s, the company brought many families to the area as immigrants to work for them, and built many of the homes those immigrants lived in. Today, Ernie’s Restaurant, a family-run North Plymouth institution, occupies a former Cordage Company rooming house. Their menu offers many New England favorites with portions large enough to satisfy those Cordage workers. Cordage Park, where those immigrants worked, is home to medical office buildings, and Roo Bar, a popular Zagat-rated upscale restaurant.
Part of the growth vision was to attract industry to the area. Plymouth is uniquely positioned to draw traffic to the town from both directions. It can be accessed from any one of six exits along Route 3 South, or “Pilgrims Highway”; the major road between Cape Cod and Boston. It can also be accessed by scenic Route 3A, and from the west on US Route 44. The MBTA’s Old Colony Commuter Rail line reaches North Plymouth, and there’s talk of opening a spur at Cordage Park to jump-start an area with great mixed-use potential.
While Plymouth’s major industry is still tourism, the healthcare industry is a close second. The town’s largest employer is Jordan Hospital, which, like Plymouth itself, is on a growth trajectory. Medical office buildings and outpatient surgical centers are being built at Cordage Park and all along the Route 3 corridor. Some are affiliated with Jordan Hospital, but just as many represent expansion of medical practices closer to Boston. These facilities fill a growing need for outpatient procedures and day surgery facilities that may also service patients from the Upper Cape.
Denis Hanks, Director of the Plymouth Area Chamber of Commerce, sees a need to educate new high school graduates and existing workers for the new economy. “We need to continue to educate the workers on a number of different skills to meet the new economy and what the companies are looking for. We’re providing a lot of training programs and college certificate programs to help with that and really create a stronger workforce.” With the large amount of available land to develop, he sees more technology-type companies coming to the Plymouth are in the future, “looking for a low cost of doing business, a quality workforce, and looking for a place to call home.”
The Chamber also supports Plymouth businesses by sponsoring an annual business expo and festivals throughout the year; including the Downtown Plymouth Waterfront Festival in August, and the Barktoberfest in October. Plymouth also has its Maritime Day every summer with a Blessing of the Fleet and a Parade of Lights.
The increase in population and the growing prosperity in the area have attracted the attention of many unique retailers and nationally known restaurant chains to Colony Place, filling a need along this stretch of Route 3. The largest openair retail center in southeastern Massachusetts, there’s a total of 40 stores and restaurants with the potential for many more. The variety of stores includes Wal-Mart, DSW, Best Buy, GH Bass, Jos. A Bank, Talbots, Jared, Sleepy’s and Ulta to name a few. Shoppers will find something for all their needs. The family restaurants at Colony Place will satisfy any mood or palate. Enjoy soup or salad at Panera, a full family dinner at Olive Garden, TGI Friday’s, or just stop for coffee at Starbucks or an ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery. With many outdoor activities, sales and promotions throughout the year, Colony Place is a destination in itself.
Like any parent wanting a better life for their children and descendants, no doubt the Pilgrims would be pleased with the New Plymouth. Their strong work ethic, innovative spirit, and commitment to community is alive and well 400 years later.