Skip to main content

Of gingerbread homes and the giant of Martha’s Vineyard

Written By | Mar 5, 2017

WASHINGTON, March 5, 2017 — It was 1835 and the pleasant one-half acre called Wesleyan Grove possessed its own fresh-water pond and was cleared of brush by workmen under the direction of Jeremiah Pease and six others from the Edgartown Methodist Church of Martha’s Vineyard. The new tract, present-day Oak Bluffs, offered the Christian faithful a summer gathering place to pitch their tents, listen to sermons and enjoy Christian fellowship.

The inaugural gathering saw a mere five tents pitched. By 1860, 500 tents swayed in the breeze off Vineyard Sound, with 12,000 in attendance. And as the annual gatherings expanded over the years, so too did the desire for more comfortable accommodations – what became the Martha’s Vineyard cottage.

Writes Peter Jones in his book “Oak Bluffs: The Cottage City Years on Martha’s Vineyard”:

“The cottage entry was a wide double door, which was reminiscent of both a church entry and the opening on the campground tent. On each side of the entry was a small narrow window that replicated the style of the entry. On the second story, another double door opened onto a cantilevered balcony, called a pulpit porch.”

Also known as the Carpenter Gothic Style, these buildings are characterized by their steep-angled roofs edged by elaborate (gingerbread) vergeboards, a distinctive and decorative flourish made possible thanks to the steam-powered jigsaws of the mid-19th century. Board-and-batten siding with pointed-arch windows is a distinctive characteristic as well.

Martha’s Vineyard, Carpenters Gothic-style cottages (author’s photo).

The gingerbread cottages of Martha’s Vineyard, arrayed in a semi-circle around Trinity Park and its open-air tabernacle are available for rent.

Trinity Park Tabernacle, Martha’s Vineyard (author’s photo).

Speaking of renting, the cost of car rentals is surprisingly modest, making exploring the island’s 96-square-miles an affordable day trip. And a collection of auto rental agencies are walking distance from the ferry dock.

Gay Head Cliffs and lighthouse, Martha’s Vineyard (author’s photo).

Leave the crowded restaurants and trendy boutiques and drive the picturesque countryside to the island’s eastern edge, home of Moshup the giant.

According to Wampanoag Indian legend, Moshup lived in the hills overlooking modern day Gay Head. Moshup had a taste for whales and fished for them, along with his native American neighbors, in the waters below Gay Head’s beautiful bluffs.

In 1789, Congress appropriated funds to build the island’s first lighthouse to guide ships around Vineyard Sound’s underwater rocks called the Devil’s Bridge. By the late 1800s, the sound saw 80,000 vessels transit its waters annually.

But using your smartphone’s GPS app, you will have no trouble negotiating your way to the grand vistas and hidden beauty of Martha’s Vineyard.

Steven M. Lopez

Originally from Los Angeles, Steven M. Lopez has been in the news business for more than thirty years. He made his way around the country: Arizona, the Bay Area and now resides in South Florida.