Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

James O'Toole

Second Advisor

Paul Faler

Third Advisor

Thomas A. McMullin


The emergence of the tourist and recreation industry on Cape Cod, Massachusetts in the late 19th century transformed the rural peninsula. The growth of the industry during the 1920s and the post World War II era brought new roads and real estate developments that turned farms and open shore land into subdivisions, summer cottage colonies and commercial enterprises.

Chatham reached the 1950s relatively unscathed by summer recreation real estate development. However, Chatham was riven by bitter controversies during the 1950s over the future development of the town. The divisive internal debates about the restoration of Stage Harbor and the implementation of planning and zoning by-laws lasted throughout the decade.

The implementation of New Deal land planning and conservation programs brought additional controversies to the town and Cape Cod. The establishment within Chatham of the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge in 1944 created a firestorm of criticism against the federal government. In 1959 the National Park Service proposed the creation of the Cape Cod National Seashore, first proposed during the New Deal. Chatham was successful in excluding Monomoy, Morris Island and Stage Island from the Seashore, in part, by using arguments born out of earlier controversies. The failure of the National Park Service to comprehend the origins of the town's arguments crippled its efforts to include the disputed areas within the Cape Cod National Seashore, created by Congress in 1961.

Documents created or collected by participants in the National Seashore debate are held by the Cape Cod National Seashore. These records have been processed and additional records held by participants have been collected and described. In addition, administrative records documenting the physical and intellectual creation of the National Seashore were described.


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