I remember my parents chastising me about knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing — something we’re all guilty of at times. I still like to know how much stuff costs and it can be interesting if one keeps it in perspective. Robert Seaton sold what became Cottage City to Samuel Norton for 10 pounds on Jan. 23, 1790, a case in point. Ten pounds then is worth $2,768 today — a lot of money but certainly not for the 75 acres of Cottage City. In 1790, though, I guess it was a small fortune. His descendant Captain Shubael L. Norton sold the property to his partners of the Oak Bluffs Land & Wharf Company for $1,613.40, which is $23,726 today and/or for a profit of $2,958 in 1870 when the sale closed.
Using those old dollars, the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association building on Trinity Park cost less than $1,000 in 1859, and Camp Ground cottages sold for $150 to $600. The Oak Bluffs Land & Wharf Company wharf was built for $5,000 in 1866 and the Camp Ground’s 31-room hotel, the Dunbar House, was constructed for $2,000 to $3,000. Edgartown placed a tax valuation on Oak Bluffs of $15,000 in 1867 — the 20 acres of the Camp Ground were exempt but the rest had a valuation of $800. The Samuel Pratt-designed Union Chapel cost $16,000 in 1871, Trinity Methodist Church was $7,748 in 1878, and the Wesley House Hotel was built for $18,000 in 1879. The Tabernacle cost $7,148 the same year, built of iron because it was cheaper than wood. The Cottage City Star reported that the new steam fire engine, hose and carriage cost $4,300 in 1884.
Overall, the Oak Bluffs Land & Wharf Company spent $300,000 on building our town. Later, in foreclosure they sold the Sea View House Hotel (built for $102,000 in 1872), the land, wharf, skating rink, carousel and the shoreline at auction for $32,000 in 1885 after 16 years in business. In 1955, our house on Pequot cost $4,600 — a block from the Inkwell — a meaningless price of inestimable value to our family. So, in perspective, the $300,000 the Oak Bluffs Land & Wharf Company spent in 2013 dollars is $7,317,073, a fraction of Oak Bluffs’ assessed value today of $2.4 billion dollars. The Oak Bluffs School’s cost of construction of $12.9 million would be $18.5 million today — a bargain no matter how you look at it.
We’re fortunate to be alive to witness an amazing time in Oak Bluffs history as we anticipate a new town hall, a new safety building and a new waterfront at the North Bluff that, combined, are among the largest structural improvements on the Island. These projects are being prepared judiciously, responsibly and with great foresight following an extended period of deficit that today’s town leaders suffered through and solved.
This past Tuesday a dedicated and professional group of Cape Cod and state officials, invited by town administrator Bob Whritenour, revisited the town to suggest ways we can improve our lot in and around town, particularly downtown. In a packed midday public meeting at the library, they addressed a series of issues — parking, signage, walking, destinations, tourism, economic growth and development, and public policy. Joined by Oak Bluffs Association executive director Christine Todd and several town committee members, they provided informed ideas, even to the extent of considering the rich history of Oak Bluffs — and offered gracious suggestions on developing consensus prior to taking action.
It was quite impressive and yet another reason I’m proud to live here. That’s a platform in the board of selectmen’s evolving two-year-old strategic plan — Proud to Be From OB. If you haven’t yet, you can still pick up a copy of the 2012 annual town report at town hall that includes the entire plan, well worth reading in view of so much progress.
Karen Achille says The Friends of the Oak Bluffs Council on Aging is hosting a holiday bazaar tomorrow morning from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Oak Bluffs senior center on Wamsutta avenue. There will be holiday greens and bakery goods, a lunch of soup and sandwiches and desserts for sale from 11 a.m. until closing.
Whoops, the Martha’s Vineyard NAAACP annual holiday bazaar is tomorrow, not last Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the regional high school cafeteria. Please stop by.
PeaceCraft is a having a holiday craft sale benefiting Haiti and they are hosting a caroling party tomorrow at 1 p.m. at their store at 30 Main street behind the Beach House in Vineyard Haven.
Thursday, Dec. 12 is the last Mother Goose on the Loose story time at 10:30 a.m. at the Oak Bluffs library. Thanks ever so much to Nelia Decker and Beth Kramer and Amy for bringing that show on the road to Oak Bluffs while the West Tisbury library is being rebuilt. Also, the Cape Light Compact folks will be at the library at 6 p.m. with a presentation on how you can save energy at home. The Cape Light Compact people offer savings and services for residential, business and municipal customers.
Happy belated birthday to selectperson Gail Barmakian on Thursday and to town administrator Bob Whritenour this coming Monday. They, along with chairperson Walter Vail and members Kathy Burton, Greg Coogan and Mike Santoro, are doing great things for our favorite town. Thank you. Keep your foot on a rock.