From the Sept. 29, 1892 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

To one man, more perhaps than to any other, the burning of the Sea View must have brought up a host of memories of the past. We refer to Capt. Shubael L. Norton, formerly of Edgartown, but for some years past a resident of Cottage City. The territory on which Oak Bluffs now stands was Capt. Norton’s by descent, and he conceived the idea of mapping out his land for purposes of sale, deeming this a suitable location for a summer resort. His territory adjoined the lands of the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association, which had held meetings at Wesleyan Grove for many years previous. Accordingly, Capt. Norton in 1866, with Grafton N. Collins, William Bradley, Ira Darrow, of Edgartown; E. P. Carpenter, of Foxboro, and Wm. S. Hills of Boston, formed the Oak Bluffs Land & Wharf Company, which company were the principal creators of the magnificent resort which has been the Island’s pride for twenty years.

Capt. Norton was President of the organization the first two years and was Superintendent the first twelve. During that time the Company sold upwards of one thousand building lots, and spent over $300,000 in improving the place. They built Union Chapel at a cost of $16,000, and spent large sums on concrete and plank walks, besides building the Sea View House, $102,000; the Naumkeag (first Grover House), $7,000; the Arcade $6000, and many other buildings and cottages. In the especial direction of building walks and roads, the Company displayed great liberality, as well as in the position which they took in the matter for furnishing amusements for the public in the way of illuminations, public games, and such events. As we say above, memories of a busy past have crowded fast upon Capt. Norton as he gazed upon the rapid destruction of the noble hotel building which he and his associates had erected a score of years before.

The wharf was built in 1867, the hotel in 1872, and the rink (casino) a few years later.

Holder M. Brownell, proprietor of the Parker House of New Bedford, first ran the Sea View, after its completion by the Company in 1872. Mr. Brownell had been proprietor of the Island House for several years prior to the building of the Sea View.

Edwin P. Gage was head clerk for the first two years, and John W. Pease, now Deputy Collector of Customs at Edgartown, was a favorite as clerk in the period from 1876 to 1888.

Mr. Brownell was manager of the hotel until 1888, making 17 consecutive years that he had catered to the comfort and pleasure of many thousands of summer visitors, many of whom occupied positions the highest in the land. About 1882 Mr. Brownell purchased the property of the original owners, and had full control for several years. The property was finally purchased, under foreclosure, by the Sea View Hotel & Wharf Co., incorporated for the purpose.

During Mr. Brownell’s management of the Sea View House the hotel entertained at different times men famous in military, political and social life. U. S. Grant, when President, Vice Presidents Henry Wilson and Wheeler, Gen. Joseph Hooker, James Gordon Bennett, Gov. Alex. H. Rice, Theodore Tilton, Robert Treat Paine, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Gov. Wm. Sprague of Rhode Island, Secretary Robeson, Postmaster-General Jewell, Gov. Talbot, Gen. Horace Porter, Rev. Dr. Talmage, Gen. Benj. F. Butler, are only a few names from the list of distinguished men who have in the past partaken of the hostelry’s good cheer. The list might be extended almost indefinitely, and made to include many foreign counts and barons of whom the house had a fair number each season.

Louis Frenkel, formerly steward for Mr. Brownell, took the management of the Sea View after Mr. Brownell retired, but had it only one season, that of 1889, when Col. Fred. J. Hart purchased the house of the Sea View Hotel & Wharf Co., which company at the time of burning held a mortgage on same.

In referring to the noble work done by the Cottage City firemen the New Bedford Evening Journal says: “The fire department of Cottage City deserve the heartiest praise for what success did crown their most persistent and long continued efforts. Men could be seen in many places shielding their comrades from the scorching flames, with doors and other wooden screens held before the firemen at the nozzles.” The Journal refers to this incident: “After the fire had leaped across the wharf and was gaining headway on the big Casino building, the most strenuous efforts were put forth by the already fatigued firemen. It was but a few short minutes before the flames burst through the sides, and all seemed doomed. Just at this moment a Boston man was heard to remark to his friend: “There, James, no Boston fire department could possibly save that building now.” It was badly wrecked but the Cottage City “fire laddies” did succeed in saving a considerable portion of the Casino building.

Compiled by Hilary Wall