The Rock Beneath the Beach

If you could dig deep into the sand along Seaview Avenue in Oak Bluffs, just across the street from where the old Sea View Hotel once stood, you would see it there, resting by the sea as it has for centuries. Remnants of its name, painted across the surface at least 125 years ago, might still be faintly visible.
But since the prospect of removing about 200 cubic yards of beach is a bleak one, you’ll have to use your imagination to remember Lover’s Rock, the giant boulder that stood for years just off the Oak Bluffs shoreline.
For generations, Lover’s Rock – a great Oak Bluffs landmark – was a place apart from the clamorous world around it. It lay just on the edge of the beach; at low tide, you could scamper out to it without getting wet; at high tide, some wading was involved. It was the spot where legions of bathers relaxed under bright suns and where young lovers swooned under full moons.
But now, all you see is a slab of gray granite, memorializing the rock buried beneath. Yet you can’t blame the sands of time for the disappearance of Lover’s Rock.    
It vanished in 1973, when the town began a massive, federally sponsored erosion-control program that moved more than 85,000 cubic yards of sand from the excavation of a new town dump to the beach along Seaview Avenue. Before starting the project, the Army Corps of Engineers discussed moving Lover’s Rock, but Island engineers were convinced there was no equipment that could do it.
Losing Lover’s Rock didn’t sit well with residents of the town. A coalition of citizens (led by Helen Scott, mother of current selectman Kerry Scott), banded together to present town leaders with a petition of over 125 signatures. The group pleaded with the board of selectmen to save the giant boulder from being buried in the sand.
The selectmen, though, weren’t that nostalgic. “We have been waiting for this beach project for some time and Lover’s Rock will be a thing of the past; we can’t build around it,” selectman Anthony Rebello said at the time. Soon after, the great rock, a relic of the ice age, was covered over.
Longtime Oak Bluffs resident and Island historian Robert Hughes remembers being introduced to Lover’s Rock by his father, who ran the bathhouses that lined Seaview Avenue (and were lost to the Hurricane of 1944). He recalls the rock was a sacred spot where lovers met to watch the moon rise slowly
over the Atlantic Ocean and young children learned how to dive for the first time into the chilly waters below.
“On a nice night, it was something to be out there on that rock,” he says.
Perhaps no one cherished Lover’s Rock more than Frederic J. Hart, a nineteenth-century businessman who owned one of Cottage City’s most popular hotels, the Sea View House, located just across the road. In 1880, Hart wrote his own love letter to the giant erratic, a poem he published as a book along with sketches and photos. The poem, entitled “Lover’s Rock: A Summer Idyll,” muses over two young lovers who are brought together at the great rock:

On the crest of the rock, Lover’s Rock Battered by storms, with many a shock. Creviced [sic] and worn, half in the sands, A rugged old giant, still it stands.

Stand it still does. Today, you’d just have to dig to find it.