NarrativeSeen by some to be one of New England's most elegant communities, Edgartown was Martha's Vineyard's first colonial settlement and has been the county seat since 1642. The stately Greek Revival houses built by the whaling captains have been carefully maintained and make the town a seaport village preserved from the early 19th century.
Main Street views include the harbor and waterfront and although the tall square-riggers that sailed all the world's oceans have passed from the scene, the heritage of these vessels and their captains remains. For the past hundred years, Edgartown has been one of the world's great yachting centers. The town is also known for its architecture with many buildings that pre-date the whaling era and still serve as family homes. Among the oldest buildings are the Vincent House, built in 1672, the Thomas Cooke House, now a museum, and the offices of the Vineyard Gazette. The venerable Old Whaling Church is now a performing arts center.
Public beaches offer surf bathing and bluefish and bass fishing. On Felix Neck, about three miles outside the center of town, 200 acres owned by the Massachusetts Audubon Society provide marked trails and a program of wildlife management and conservation education. Special activities for all age groups are offered throughout the year.
LocationLocated on Martha's Vineyard, an island 20 miles long and 10 miles wide situated five miles south of the soutwest tip of Cape Cod. Edgartown is bordered by Oak Bluffs and Nantucket Sound on the north, Katama Bay on the east, the Atlantic Ocean on the south, and West Tisbury on the west. Edgartown is separated from Chappaquiddick Island by Katama Bay.
Total Area: 34.69 sq. miles
Land Area: 27.01 sq. miles
Density: 113 per sq. mile
NarrativeThe Town of Oak Bluffs is a resort town on the northeast shore of Martha's Vineyard. There was a large pre-Colonial Indian population that took advantage of the fishing and shellfishing in Oak Bluffs, probably on a seasonal basis. The explorer Gosnold was among the first European adventurers, fishermen and traders who set up temporary or seasonal camps on Cuttyhunk beginning as early a 1602. The first grant of 500 acres of land made to a European was in 1642 to John Dagget but it wasn't until 1667 that the first permanent European settlement took place. Subsistence farming, fishing and shellfishing supported the early settlers.
In 1835, Jeremiah Pease chose an oak grove on the edge of Squash Meadow for a camp meeting of island Methodists. The summer meeting became popular and attendance grew like wildfire. Groups of church members first came to stay in tents for two or three days, then families started bringing their own tents to the weekend retreats. In 1835, nine tents were sufficient to shelter the attendees; in 1858, 12,000 people attended the Sunday services. The camp meetings were ecumenical in spirit and attracted members of most Protestant sects as well as Roman Catholics. By the late 1850's, annual visitors were replacing tents with elaborately decorated carpenter Gothic cottages and the first major hotel in Oak Bluffs opened in the 1860's. The expanding number of permanent residents, including a significant immigrant population of Portuguese, continued a substantial fishing industry, built cottages and serviced summer visitors in the thriving tourist business. Through the 19th century, Oak Bluffs saw the side-by-side development of a secular seaside resort featuring a trotting track, roller rink and dance hall, and the continuation of a religious summer revival.
In modern times Oak Bluffs has come to terms with all of the strands in its past, and among the most sought after houses are the small, colorful, carpenter Gothic cottages built by revivalists.
LocationLocated on the northern shore of Martha's Vineyard, an island 20 miles long and 10 miles wide situated five miles south of the southwest tip of Cape Cod. Oak Bluffs is bordered by Nantucket Sound on the north and east, Edgartown on the south, and Tisbury on the west and northwest.
Total Area: 8.70 sq. miles
Land Area: 7.37 sq. miles
Density: 380 per sq. mile
NarrativeWest Tisbury, the bucolic heart of the island of Martha's Vineyard, prides itself on its genuine rural qualities, its well-protected natural resources, its resident writers and artists, its ocean beaches, its neighborly sense of community, its wildflowers, its homespun general store, its fertile farmland (a winery, a strawberry farm, a llama farm, and hundreds of cows, sheep and onion patches), its summer farmers' market and its boisterous agricultural fair each August.
This slow moving and simple rural village was the fastest growing community in the Commonwealth through the 1980s, and for many of its residents, West Tisbury's biggest problem is the threat of being loved to death.
LocationLocated on Martha's Vineyard, an island 20 miles long and 10 miles wide situated five miles south of the southwest tip of Cape Cod. West Tisbury is bordered by Tisbury on the northeast, Edgartown on the east, the Atlantic Ocean on the south, Chilmark on the west, and Vineyard Sound on the northwest.
Total Area: 33.68 sq. miles
Land Area: 25.03 sq. miles
Density: 68 per sq. mile
NarrativeThe Town of Chilmark is a small rural community located toward the western end of the island of Martha's Vineyard. Most of its 10,639 acres are devoted to residential and agricultural use. The center of town houses a small elementary schoolhouse, originally a one-room school built circa 1850 and still in use for younger grades, a public library, originally a house built in 1790, a town hall built circa 1897, and a handsome church built in 1843. These buildings have all had additions during recent years.
Within Chilmark is a fishing village named Menemsha. During the spring, summer and fall, fishing vessels come in with their catches and fresh seafood can be purchased there. The harbor, in addition to a commercial pier where fishing vessels tie up, has a small yacht marina that is extremely popular during the summer months. Menemsha is also the home of a Coast Guard Station.
Chilmark is particularly welcoming in the fall of the year. The busy tourist season is over, the weather is beautiful and the rolling hills, woodlands and lovely panoramic ocean views make the town an extraordinary place to visit.
LocationLocated on Martha's Vineyard, an island 20 miles long and 10 miles wide situated five miles south of the southwest tip of Cape Cod. Chilmark is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the north, northeast, and south; West Tisbury on the west; and Gay Head on the southeast.
Total Area: 34.70 sq. miles
Land Area: 19.14 sq. miles
Density: 34 per sq. mile
NarrativeThe Town of Aquinnah (previously knows as Gay Head) is unique in being the only community in Massachusetts that continues to have a substantial Indian presence in the 20th century, a presence that continued right through the disruptions and disasters of King Philip's War. The Indians of Aquinnah (previously knows as Gay Head) are thought by some to be related to the mainland Wampanoag tribe, but the natives themselves have a mythic story that describes their arrival on Martha's Vineyard floating on an ice flow from the far North. Whichever way they arrived, their history has been very different from that of mainland tribes.
In contrast to the massacres and bloodshed in other communities during King Philip's War when many settlers abandoned their towns altogether as a result of the threat or the reality of Indian attack, in Aquinnah (previously knows as Gay Head), white settlers armed their Indian neighbors and made them the sentries and guards to warn of possible attacking tribes. This responsibility the Indians of Aquinnah (previously knows as Gay Head) carried out faithfully and there was very little if any damage done in the town during those turbulent times. The most outstanding natural feature of Aquinnah (previously knows as Gay Head) is the magnificent display of varicolored clay cliffs in strange formations which spill down to the sea on the border of the town. These cliffs marked the homeward leg of Gay Head's Indian and Yankee fishermen and whalers. The European settlers learned from their Indian neighbors the skills needed for coast-wise whaling and Aquinnahers (previously knows as Gay Head)maintained a shore fishing fleet. From the early 17th century to the last day an American whaler sailed, Aquinnah (previously knows as Gay Head) Indians and Yankees were prominent in whaling. Although much of their fishing and whaling was done in small boats close to shore, Aquinnahers (previously knows as Gay Headers) also sailed with whalers of the Nantucket and New Bedford fleets. The Aquinnah (previously knows as Gay Head) cliffs have also been a source of clay for pottery and of myriads of fossils which show the variety of animal and marine life in earlier ages of the island. The town's history starts very early, since Bartholomew Gosnold sailed into Aquinnah (previously knows as Gay Head) in 1602 and traded for furs with the Indians of the town. Gosnold filled his boat with beaver and muskrat, sassafras and cedar before sailing back to England. When the town was incorporated in 1870, it had already been named an Indian reservation and had established its maritime economy.
LocationLocated on the western tip of Martha's Vineyard, an island 20 miles long and 10 miles wide situated five miles south of the southwest tip of Cape Cod. Aquinnah (previously knows as Gay Head) is bordered by Chilmark on the east and the Atlantic Ocean on the north, west, and south.
Total Area: 40.78 sq. miles
Land Area: 5.37 sq. miles
Density: 37 per sq. mile
NarrativeThe Town of Tisbury is a resort community on the north shore of Martha's Vineyard. In 1663, Indians sold West Chop to whites and the first permanent European settlement was made in 1674, although European explorers, traders and fishermen had roamed the area from early in the 16th century. Gosnold, among other explorers, recorded his impressions during a voyage in 1602. The area abounded in shellfish, striped bass, bluefish and swordfish and drew Indians as well as Europeans for offshore fishing as well as to the massive herring runs.
Early settlers relied on agriculture, grazing and raising hay for cattle but the town grew very slowly. By 1700 there were only three families in Tisbury with a total of 27 people; in 1775 there were only 45 families with 225 people. In 1787 there were 21 licensed inn holders, again clearly servicing a transient population much larger than the permanent one and certainly foreshadowing the town's modern character. Residents managed the port, fishing boats and salt works and the town built deep water wharves in 1836 as well as two marine railways to facilitate boat handling. The first submarine telegraph line was laid across Vineyard Sound to West Chop in 1856, significantly improving communications for townspeople. Residents fished for whales and operated 125 farms at the end of the 19th century but by the turn of the century, Tisbury had shifted from a maritime to a land economy and were operating a steam corn factory, embossing leather, building harnesses and raising poultry and fruit.
By the 1950's, the town had established its modern character, which relies heavily on the servicing of a growing and affluent summer community which continues to build large summer homes on the island. Fishing and farming are still carried on to a lesser degree.
LocationLocated on the northernmost portion of Martha's Vineyard, an island 20 miles long and 10 miles wide situated five miles south of the southwest tip of Cape Cod. Tisbury is bordered by Vineyard Sound on the north, Oak Bluffs on the east and south, and West Tisbury on the west.
Total Area: 8.05 sq. miles
Land Area: 6.56 sq. miles
Density: 476 per sq. mile
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