The commanding view of the Back Shore offered at the Province Lands Visitor Center is one that spectators knew about long before the current building was constructed. Indeed, the dune on which the Visit Center sits was known for many decades as Grand View.
(Shamefully, it was known before that as Nigger Hill or Nigger Head Hill, for reasons I have yet to discover. It may not be quite as malevolent as it sounds, however, since that term’s synonyms include a flower known today as the black-eyed Susan. It also had several nautical applications. But the offensive nature of the term seemed evident even in the 19th century, when one mapmaker substituted the term “Negro Head.”)
In 1955, Harry E. Fraser, the director of public beaches in the commonwealth’s Department of Public Works, supervised the construction at this spot of an octagonal wooden observation platform on high stilts. Rudimentary it may have been, but the view drew countless visitors and though the lookout tower was well out into the dunes, it stood conveniently at the intersection of what was then known as New Beach Highway (Province Lands Road) and Conwell Street Extension (Race Point Road).
Arsonists nearly brought the tower down in 1961, but the fire was spotted fairly quickly at the Race Point Coast Guard Station and guardsmen had just about extinguished the blaze by the time the Provincetown Fire Department arrived on the scene. The Grand View Tower reopened in 1962 but was replaced within a few years by the Visitor Center.
This Grand View should not be confused with Max Bohm’s house of the same name, at 676 Commercial Street.