Tuesday, September 23, 2008: Day in Martha's Vineyard, MA
This gloriously brilliant day found us docked at the wharf in Vineyard Haven. Note the view of the American Spirit with a vintage two-masted schooner in the harbor.
Since we were able to access Martha’s Vineyard’s shores without the need for a tender, we had the entire day to explore much of the island. American Cruise Lines arranged excursions to Edgartown and Oak Bluffs, but Sandy Balla recommended an excellent alternative for individuals to get around the island: the Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) bus system. The best deal was a $6 one-day pass ($3 senior/disabled) for unlimited trips from town to town. This turned out to be a fun and efficient way to see the sights.
We walked to the Vineyard Haven Transit Center, located at the Steamship Authority Ferry Terminal, and boarded the No. 1 bus to the Visitors’ Center in Edgartown. We first strolled to the Edgartown Lighthouse, and the shoreline nearby.
Next, we walked along Water Street, to see the magnificent whaling captains’ mansions.
Our next stop was the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, 59 Cooke Street. Do navigate the Museum’s excellent Web site for much insight into the Island’s history.
We returned to the Visitors’ Center, to view some of the historical structures located near Church and Main streets.
The Vincent House, built in 1672 and the oldest unaltered house on Martha’s Vineyard, was moved to its present site in 1977. Other significant historical buildings nearby include the 1843 Old Whaling Church, the 1858 Dukes County Courthouse and the 1840 Daniel Fisher House.
We took the bus back to Vineyard Haven and had lunch on the ship. That afternoon, Sandy Balla led our group to the public bus stop opposite the dock, to take the VTA bus to quaint Oak Bluffs. The 10-minute ride took us to Ocean Park, the transit interface with the Woods Hole Ferry.
Oak Bluffs has an interesting history. In brief, the town incorporated as Cottage City in 1880, and was rechristened Oak Bluffs in 1907 as it grew into a year-round resort town. We walked through the Circuit Avenue historic commercial district to Trinity Park, the locale for the Tabernacle and the “Painted Ladies”, the colorful collection of Carpenter Gothic houses that dates to the late 19th century.
Trinity Park, previously known as Wesleyan Grove, was the centerpiece of the Martha’s Vineyard Campmeeting Association, in the forefront of the conservative Methodist movement of the 1830s. The small houses were built to resemble tents. Today, the Association applies strict architectural guidelines to new construction, owing to its status as a National Landmark.
The open-sided Tabernacle , erected in 1879, seats 3000, and is constructed of wrought iron and steel. It is said to have perfect acoustics. This building replaced large tents, which were used for religious revival meetings. It is still in use today, despite extensive renovations that began in 2003.
We were free to walk among the cottages as long as we respected the occupants’ privacy.
Every summer, Trinity Park celebrates "Grand Illumination Night",when residents hang Chinese and Japanese paper lanterns, and light them at sundown. It's quite a celebration, including a band concert, held in the Tabernacle. (The two photos at left: courtesy of Bill and Sue Ewen).
One “painted lady” is open to the public as the Cottage Museum and Shop. Visitors can view the interior of a typical cottage together with furnishings and artifacts typical of the late 1800s.
The walking tour took us back to Ocean Park, where we had the opportunity to see some spectacular Victorian mansions located along Ocean Avenue.
The Corbin-Norton House is one of the most flamboyant examples of Queen Anne Victorian architecture fronting Ocean Park. This particular home has quite a history. Peter Norton completed a detailed rebuild and renovation of this 1891 Victorian, only see it burn to the ground in 2001, due to an electrical wiring malfunction. Norton rebuilt the home in 2004, this time with state-of-the-art fire prevention and security systems. See Article for more information, from a building contractor's perspective.
We took the bus back to the American Spirit for the usual happy hour and excellent dinner. This evening’s entertainment was the movie “Jaws”, much of which was filmed on Martha’s Vineyard.
Sandy Balla informed us of some changes to the itinerary: American Cruise Lines dropped Fall River, apparently due to negative comments from passengers in favor of a half-day stop in Bristol, RI with an early arrival in Newport. There had also been some weather bulletins concerning Hurricane Kyle, which was still well south of New England as of today, but was predicted to head north. Sandy alerted us to the possibility that there may be further changes ahead, due to possible high seas.