OVD: how soon we forget

The other day I was walking on Ocean View Drive here in Wellfleet and realized that if I’d ever known when it was constructed I’ve forgotten that. OVD is the road that, as the name suggests, runs along the top of the dunes connecting four main town ocean beaches. I was surprised that I didn’t know the answer to that question about one of our most prominent roads.

I began asking around and have discovered that a lot of people don’t know the answer to that obvious question. I called a friend at the Historical Society, an obvious starting point. She didn’t herself know but suggested I get in touch with the town clerk, who has access to town records about roads. The town clerk kindly consulted the records and found notes indicating that in the late 1940s or early 1950s selectmen were talking about the possibility of an OVD, but nothing about when it actually got built.

Trying to recover some personal memory, I thought back to 1959 when on my first visit to the town I slept on Cahoon Hollow beach. Apparently I didn’t think to notice whether there was a road running north and south from Cahoon Hollow Road. (You tend to notice what’s there, not what’s not there.)

I consulted an old USGS topo map based information up to 1949. OVD was not there then.

I ran into someone who said, “Oh, Harry will know. Harry [our town administrator] knows everything about the town.” But he didn’t know. He consulted the same records as the clerk and came up short of an answer about the age.

At some point my curiosity began to get more demanding, wanting to know not only when it was built, but the circumstances of its conception. Was OVD pushed by some and opposed by others? Was there discussion in town meeting or elsewhere of advantages and disadvantages? (Truro was not impressed enough by Wellfleet’s building a road along the ocean side to build one of their own, and still lack one.)

I skimmed the last part of Judy Stetson’s history of town, found a reference to OVD—so it was there by 1963, the book’s publication date— but nothing about when it was completed.

At the local thrift store looking for a sweatshirt I ran into an old friend. “Hey, you live on Ocean View Drive. Do you know when it was constructed?” But she didn’t. Thought maybe it had something to do with the advent of the Seashore park in 1950, so I could see that was an unproductive lead . (The CCNS came into being in 1961.)

I’m still hopeful of solving the mystery. Perhaps someone reading this blog knows the answer. Surely there are newspaper clippings buried in the archives of our wonderful Historical Society, needing only someone with time and inclination to dig them out.

Meanwhile, I’m amazed at the community amnesia about such an important (and relatively recent) feature of town. Though built sometime between the early 50s and 1963, OVD’s origins are already obscured by the mists of time, like paleolithic cave paintings or an archeological site of the earliest inhabitants of the New World.

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