Cape Cod is known for their lighthouses but another quaint structure that many visitors may notice as they tour around the Cape is an abundance of windmills. Windmills do give the Cape a bit of a charming Dutch flavor but they also seem a bit out of place at first in this coastal area. Many of the windmills were traditional grain windmills but some were used for a decidedly more nautical reason - salt works. Before modern refrigeration, Cape fisherman had the dilemma of how to keep their newly caught fish fresh for a long time. Sea salt was used to dry and preserve the fish until they could be shipped up to Boston and other points on the East Coast. Luckily Cape Cod has plenty of salty ocean water at its disposal as well as healthy winds. Early Cape citizens devised a system of windmills to pump the salt water directly from the ocean into evaporation tanks to yield the much needed salt and the Cape Cod's reputation for salt works was born. Over the years as refrigeration and railroads improved, many of the windmills fell into disuse and were eventually taken down but some lovely ones still remain with the help of local preservation groups and dedicated individuals. Some of them even allow tours like the Judah Baker Windmill in Bass River (for a while it was moved to Kelley's Pond): http://www.hsoy.org/historic/judahbaker.htm and the Higgin's Farm Windmill in Brewster:http://www.brewsterhistoricalsociety.org.
If you are interested in learning more about other Cape Cod windmills, a list with photos and descriptions can be found here: http://capecodwindmills.scificincinnati.com
I am a designer and Cape native who loves cottage style, simple, small house living and guiding people to the hidden treasures