Hyannis Harbor is an unincorporated village on the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Harbor is about 17 nautical miles (29 kilometers or 18 miles by air) east-northeast of Falmouth Harbor and some 28 kilometers (17 miles) southeast of Cape Cod Canal. Hyannis Harbor is the biggest of seven villages in Barnstable County which had a population of over 221 thousand people in 2010.
As "Capital of the Cape," Hyannis Harbor is home for the Barnstable County government offices and two busy shopping districts. Named for an Algonquian Chief, Hyannis Harbor is a popular resort for yachters and a shipping point for cranberries and fish. Hyannis Harbor also has ferry services that take passengers and cargo to the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. It is about 17 nautical miles from Edgartown Harbor on Martha's Vineyard and about 23 nautical miles from Nantucket Harbor. Hyannis Harbor is also the site of the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum. The President's family home is located nearby in Hyannisport.
Hyannis Harbor was named after Iyannough, a high chief of the Nauset Nation's Cummaquid Tribe of indigenous peoples. Also called the "Cape Cod Indians," the Nauset and Iyannough welcomed the Mayflower Pilgrims when they arrived in the early 1600s.
The Nauset were a distinct tribe that frequently came under the control of Wampanoag overlords. The two groups shared language, culture, and agricultural practices. The Nauset relied more on fish than others due to their proximity to the sea. Before large-scale colonization of the region, the Nauset population had already been dramatically reduced by diseases brought by Europeans and by their capture for slavery.
Although Iyannough and the Nauset helped the Pilgrims at first, they soon became fearful when the Pilgrims attacked the tribe in the winter of 1623. When the Nauset fled to area swamps and islands, Iyannough is believed to have died from exposure. His son, Yahho (or John Hyanno), seems to have played an important role in European settlement of the area. A statue of Iyannough is located in the village green in Hyannis Harbor's downtown.
The early European settlers of the Hyannis Harbor area were largely farmers. English immigrants incorporated the Town of Barnstable in 1639. In 1666, Hyannis Harbor's first settler, Nicholas Davis, built an oyster warehouse on Lewis Bay.
The first home was built in Hyannis Harbor at the head of Lewis Bay by Edward Coleman Jr. in 1690. That year, John Thatcher made the first trip carrying mail to Boston from Hyannis Harbor.
By the 1840, more than two hundred shipmasters had built homes in Hyannis Harbor. The first rail car arrived in 1854, heralding the birth of business and trade in the Hyannis Harbor area. In 1872, the Hyannis Land Company bought almost one thousand acres stretching from Lewis Bay to Craigville, including most of Hyannis Harbor.
Since the late 19th Century, Hyannis Harbor has been a popular place for American leaders including Ulysses S. Grant and Grover Cleveland. John F. Kennedy lived there. In 1928, Joseph P. Kennedy bought Hyannisport's Malcolm Cottage, establishing the local dynasty. In 1952, then Senator John Kennedy bought the house next door which later became the "Summer White House."
Today, Barnstable contains seven unincorporated villages, including Hyannis Harbor. Hyannis Harbor is the biggest of the villages. Hyannis Harbor is the transportation and commercial hub for Cape Cod. Hyannis Harbor holds the biggest concentration of restaurants, hotels, shops, entertainment spots, and businesses in Barnstable County.
Hyannis Harbor is a popular vacation destination during the summer. It offers many attractions that include the John F. Kennedy Museum, many historic buildings, the Ancient Burying Ground, and the Gideon Hawley House. Hyannis Harbor also has many beaches that make it attractive to lovers of sun and sand.