|This 1918 photo of Robert Lewis was taken by his father, Captain William Lewis,|
on the tidal flats at the foot of Cook Street. The ice stood 10 feet, two inches high.
No ships could get in or out of Provincetown Harbor. The paper reported that “With the exception of a mere handful of days, ice has continued to form in day or night almost constantly on the shore of Cape Cod bay since early in January." On Valentine's day a large ice floe drifting near the mouth of the harbor was driven toward the shoreline at 571 Commercial Street, where the old fish shack at the end of Lewis Wharf had been converted to a theater for the Provincetown Players. The force of tons of ice pushing against the pilings of the old wharf threatened to destroy the magical spot where the career of unknown playwright Eugene O'Neill had been launched two years earlier. Although the structure survived this onslaught, it was indeed ice in the harbor that demolished the wharf in the winter of 1921.
In the photo above we can see ten foot, two inch thick chunks of ice that clogged the harbor in that dreadful winter of 1918, coming to rest on the tidal flats at low tide, creating tremendous physical hardships for townsfolk and wreaking havoc on their economy as well. Not only were fuel barges turned away by the ice, but the impassable harbor kept the fishing fleet ashore for more than 30 days. When a northeast wind finally breached the ice and began pushing it, little by little, toward Truro, the harbor once again became navigable, but the exceptional cold and a frozen harbor had made January through early March of 1918 the most brutal winter in Provincetown's memory.