Chilmark, Massachusetts

Coordinates: 41°20′35″N 70°44′43″W / 41.34306°N 70.74528°W / 41.34306; -70.74528
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Chilmark, Massachusetts
Chilmark Town Hall
Chilmark Town Hall
Official seal of Chilmark, Massachusetts
Location in Dukes County in Massachusetts
Location in Dukes County in Massachusetts
Coordinates: 41°20′35″N 70°44′43″W / 41.34306°N 70.74528°W / 41.34306; -70.74528
CountryUnited States
IncorporatedSeptember 14, 1694
 • TypeOpen town meeting
 • Total100.4 sq mi (260.1 km2)
 • Land19.0 sq mi (49.3 km2)
 • Water81.4 sq mi (210.8 km2)
91 ft (28 m)
 • Total1,212
 • Density64/sq mi (24.6/km2)
Time zoneUTC-5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-4 (Eastern)
ZIP code
Area code508/774
FIPS code25-13800
GNIS feature ID0618288

Chilmark is a town located on Martha's Vineyard in Dukes County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 1,212 at the 2020 census.[1] The fishing village of Menemsha is located on the western side of the town along its border with the town of Aquinnah. Chilmark had the highest median home sale price of any town or city in Massachusetts in 2013.[2]


Governor Thomas Mayhew, the Elder (March 31, 1593 – March 25, 1682) established the first English settlement of Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket and adjacent islands in 1642. The town was officially incorporated on September 14, 1694, the first town to separate from the two original towns of Tisbury and Edgartown. The new town was named for Chilmark, the ancestral home of the family of Governor Thomas Mayhew of Tisbury, in the English county of Wiltshire. In 1714, Chilmark was made a township including the island of Nomans Land.

The town was once known for its unusually high percentage of deaf citizens. In 1854, Chilmark had a deaf population of one in every 25 people, while the national average was one deaf person in 5,728. (See Martha's Vineyard Sign Language.) Today the town is mostly residential, with a small working harbor in Menemsha along the Vineyard Sound side of the town.

In August 2009, 2010 and 2011, President Barack Obama and his family vacationed in Chilmark, renting the Blue Heron Farm.[3][4]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a land area of 19.0 square miles (49.3 km2).[5] Chilmark ranks 192nd of the 351 communities in the Commonwealth in terms of land area. Chilmark is bordered by Vineyard Sound and Aquinnah to the west, West Tisbury to the east, and the Atlantic Ocean to the south.

The town includes the island of Noman's Land, which lies southwest of Martha's Vineyard. Because of Noman's Land, the town is officially the second most southerly point in Massachusetts (the south shore of Nantucket is approximately a kilometer south of the southernmost point on Noman's Land). Chilmark has a series of small ponds along the Atlantic side of the town, and it shares Tisbury Great Pond to the east and Menemsha Pond and Squibnocket Pond to the southwest, along the Aquinnah town line. It is between these two ponds, which are 1,100 feet (340 m) apart at their closest point, that the only road to Aquinnah passes. Long Beach, privately owned, runs along the southern side of Squibnocket Pond and technically connects the towns. At one point in the late 17th and early 18th century, Squibnocket Pond was open to the sea. However, the barrier beach with its sand dunes eventually closed this opening permanently. Occasionally in winter storms, waves will wash across low points in the beach, but the beach itself has not been breached in a hundred years, unlike other barrier beaches on Martha's Vineyard.

Chilmark has the highest point on Martha's Vineyard, at the 311-foot (95 m) summit of Peaked Hill.[6]

The town has several sanctuaries and preserves, the largest of which being the Menemsha Hills Reservation just northeast of the village which shares that name. The town also has six beaches; one is at Menemsha, another on the inner shore of Menemsha Bay, and the others are all along the Atlantic coast. (Note that several of these beaches are restricted to landowners only, and those designated as public require a beach pass.) There is also a boat launch in Menemsha, as well as a Coast Guard station, in Menemsha Creek (Harbor).The Coast Guard Station burned to the ground in July 2010 but was rebuilt and recommissioned in April 2015.

The town has no direct access to the mainland via ferry or by air; Martha's Vineyard Airport is in neighboring West Tisbury, and the Steamship Authority ferries to Woods Hole are in Vineyard Haven, which is 12 miles (19 km) northeast of the town center, and in Oak Bluffs, 16 miles (26 km) away.


Historical population

Source: United States census records and Population Estimates Program data.[7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16]

As of the census[17] of 2000, there were 843 people, 382 households, and 237 families residing in the town. The population density was 44.0 inhabitants per square mile (17.0/km2). There were 1,409 housing units at an average density of 73.6 per square mile (28.4/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 97.75% White, 0.36% African American, 0.12% Native American, 0.36% Asian, 0.71% from other races, and 0.71% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.83% of the population.

There were 382 households, out of which 25.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.4% were married couples living together, 6.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.7% were non-families. Of all households 29.6% were made up of individuals, and 9.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.21 and the average family size was 2.71.

In the town, the age distribution of the population shows 20.8% under the age of 18, 4.0% from 18 to 24, 23.7% from 25 to 44, 32.7% from 45 to 64, and 18.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 46 years. For every 100 females, there were 96.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.9 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $41,917, and the median income for a family was $63,750. Males had a median income of $35,469 versus $33,281 for females. The per capita income for the town was $30,029. About 5.7% of families and 7.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.6% of those under age 18 and 4.3% of those age 65 or over.

Statistically, Chilmark ranks 324th in terms of population, and 311th by population density. It is the second smallest population on Martha's Vineyard (ahead of Aquinnah), but is the least densely populated town on the island.


On the national level, Chilmark is a part of Massachusetts's 9th congressional district, and is currently represented by Bill Keating. The state's senior member of the United States Senate is Elizabeth Warren. The state's junior Senator is Ed Markey.

On the state level, Chilmark is represented in the Massachusetts House of Representatives as a part of the Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket district, which includes all of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, as well as a portion of Falmouth. The town is represented in the Massachusetts Senate as a portion of the Cape and Islands district, which includes all of Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket and most of Barnstable County (with the exception of Bourne, Sandwich, Falmouth and Mashpee).[18] All of Dukes County is patrolled by the Fifth (Oak Bluffs) Barracks of Troop D of the Massachusetts State Police.[19]

The Chilmark School (2019)

Chilmark is governed on the local level by the open town meeting form of government, and is led by a board of selectmen. All of the town's facilities are centered at a location known as Beetlebung Corner. The Town Hall, Tri-Town Ambulance, and the Fire Department share a building in the northern quadrant of the crossroads, the police station is located next to the Chilmark Tavern, and the post office and the town's Free Public Library occupy the southern. The current library opened in 2003, having outgrown the previous library just to the east of the current location at the corner.[20]


Chilmark is part of the Martha's Vineyard Regional School District along with Aquinnah, Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Tisbury, and West Tisbury. Students in Chilmark attend Aquinnah-Chilmark Regional Elementary School along with Aquinnah, from grades K–8. High School students then attend Martha's Vineyard Regional High School. The MVRHS's teams are nicknamed the Vineyarders, and their colors are violet and white. The school has a longstanding rivalry with Nantucket High School, with both competing for the Island Cup on an annual basis.

In popular culture[edit]

People of Chilmark (Figure Composition), 1920, by Thomas Hart Benton, in the Hirshhorn Museum collection in Washington, D.C.
  • On the television show The X-Files, Fox Mulder was raised in Chilmark. It was in Chilmark that his younger sister Samantha's alien abduction happened on November 27, 1973.
  • Chilmark is the setting of the wedding in the movie Jumping the Broom.
  • At the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., there is a 1920 painting by artist Thomas Hart Benton called People of Chilmark. Benton first visited Chilmark in the summer of 1919. People of Chilmark was the artist's first masterpiece and, at 5½' × 6½', the largest painting he had executed to date.
  • Chilmark and Menemsha, the fishing village located on the western side of the town, are also the locations of the fictional town of "Amity Island" in the 1975 Steven Spielberg movie Jaws.

Notable people[edit]

See Also[edit]


  1. ^ "Census - Geography Profile: Chilmark town, Dukes County, Massachusetts". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved November 7, 2021.
  2. ^ "Median home prices by town". The Boston Globe. 5 September 2013. Retrieved 4 February 2017.
  3. ^ Susan Milligan (20 August 2009). "For Obama, not the time for extended Vineyard rest". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 12 February 2013. But Obama is settling for a Sunday-to-Sunday sojourn. The White House has not released details of the Obamas' plans, but locals say the first family has rented the Blue Heron Farm in Chilmark, a 28-acre estate owned by William and Mollie Van Devender, both donors to Republicans. The property includes a swimming pool, access to a private beach, even a place to whack golf balls.
  4. ^ Erica Werner (19 August 2010). "Vacation time for the president". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 12 February 2013.
  5. ^ "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): Chilmark town, Dukes County, Massachusetts". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Archived from the original on February 13, 2020. Retrieved October 29, 2015.
  6. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Squibnocket topographic map (1977)
  7. ^ "Total Population (P1), 2010 Census Summary File 1". American FactFinder, All County Subdivisions within Massachusetts. United States Census Bureau. 2010.
  8. ^ "Massachusetts by Place and County Subdivision - GCT-T1. Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  9. ^ "1990 Census of Population, General Population Characteristics: Massachusetts" (PDF). US Census Bureau. December 1990. Table 76: General Characteristics of Persons, Households, and Families: 1990. 1990 CP-1-23. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  10. ^ "1980 Census of the Population, Number of Inhabitants: Massachusetts" (PDF). US Census Bureau. December 1981. Table 4. Populations of County Subdivisions: 1960 to 1980. PC80-1-A23. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  11. ^ "1950 Census of Population" (PDF). Bureau of the Census. 1952. Section 6, Pages 21-10 and 21-11, Massachusetts Table 6. Population of Counties by Minor Civil Divisions: 1930 to 1950. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  12. ^ "1920 Census of Population" (PDF). Bureau of the Census. Number of Inhabitants, by Counties and Minor Civil Divisions. Pages 21-5 through 21-7. Massachusetts Table 2. Population of Counties by Minor Civil Divisions: 1920, 1910, and 1920. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  13. ^ "1890 Census of the Population" (PDF). Department of the Interior, Census Office. Pages 179 through 182. Massachusetts Table 5. Population of States and Territories by Minor Civil Divisions: 1880 and 1890. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  14. ^ "1870 Census of the Population" (PDF). Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1872. Pages 217 through 220. Table IX. Population of Minor Civil Divisions, &c. Massachusetts. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  15. ^ "1860 Census" (PDF). Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1864. Pages 220 through 226. State of Massachusetts Table No. 3. Populations of Cities, Towns, &c. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  16. ^ "1850 Census" (PDF). Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1854. Pages 338 through 393. Populations of Cities, Towns, &c. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  17. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  18. ^ Index of Legislative Representatives by City and Town
  19. ^ Station D-5, SP Oak Bluffs
  20. ^ A History of the Chilmark Library Archived 2006-09-29 at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]