Martha's Vineyard

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Martha's Vineyard
Native name: Noepe
Nickname: The Vineyard, The Rock
Martha's Vineyard map.png
Map of Martha's Vineyard
Martha's Vineyard is located in Massachusetts
Martha's Vineyard
Martha's Vineyard (Massachusetts)
Location Dukes County, Massachusetts
Coordinates 41°24′N 70°37′W / 41.400°N 70.617°W / 41.400; -70.617
Archipelago Elizabeth Islands
Total islands 3
Major islands 2
Area 87.48 sq mi (226.6 km2)
Length 20.5 mi (33 km)
Highest elevation 311 ft (94.8 m)
Highest point Menemsha Point
United States
State Massachusetts
County Dukes
Population 16,535 (as of 2010)
Density 66.2 /km2 (171.5 /sq mi)
Aerial view of Martha's Vineyard with Elizabeth Islands above

Martha's Vineyard (Wampanoag: Noepe) is an island located south of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, known for being an affluent summer colony. It includes the smaller Chappaquiddick Island, which is usually connected to the larger island, though storms and hurricanes have been known to separate the two islands. The last such separation of the islands was in 2007, and as of April 2, 2015, the two islands are again connected.[1][2]

Often called just "The Vineyard",[citation needed] the island has a land area of 100 square miles (260 km2). It is the 58th largest island in the United States and the third largest on the East Coast of the United States, after Long Island and Mount Desert Island. It is not connected to the mainland by a bridge or tunnel.

The island is located in Massachusetts, as a part of Dukes County, which also includes Cuttyhunk, as well as the island of Nomans Land, the latter of which is currently a US Wildlife preserve closed to the public, due to possible unexploded ordnance dating from its role as a practice bombing range from 1943-1996.[3] The Vineyard was also home to one of the earliest known deaf communities in the United States; consequently, a special sign language, Martha's Vineyard Sign Language (MVSL), developed on the island.[4]

The 2010 census reported a year-round population of 16,535 residents,[5] although the summer population can swell to more than 100,000 people. About 56% of the Vineyard's 14,621 homes are seasonally occupied.[6]

Martha's Vineyard is primarily known as a summer colony, and it is accessible only by boat and air. However, its year-round population has grown considerably since the 1960s. Each decade from 1970 to 2000, Martha's Vineyard’s year-round population grew about a third, for a total of 145% or about 3 to 4% per year (46%, 30% and 29% in each respective decade). The population of Martha’s Vineyard was 14,901 in the 2000 Census and was estimated at 15,582 in 2004. (Dukes County was 14,987 in 2000 and 15,669 in 2004).[6] Dukes County, which includes the six towns on Martha's Vineyard and Gosnold, grew by more than 10 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to Census data released in 2011, gaining nearly 1,548 residents. The Island's population increased from 14,987 to 16,535.[5]

A study by the Martha's Vineyard Commission found that the cost of living on the island is 60% higher than the national average, and housing prices are 96% higher.[7] A study of housing needs by the Commission found that the average weekly wage on Martha's Vineyard was "71% of the state average, the median home price was 54% above the state's and the median rent exceeded the state's by 17%".[8]



Originally inhabited by the Wampanoag, Martha's Vineyard was known in their language as Noepe, or "land amid the streams". In 1642, the Wampanoag numbered somewhere around 3,000 on the island. By 1764, that number had dropped by around 90% to 313.[9]

A smaller island to the south was named "Martha's Vineyard" by the English explorer Bartholomew Gosnold, who sailed to the island in 1602. The name was later transferred to the main island. It is thus the eighth-oldest surviving English place-name in the United States.[10] The island's namesake is not positively known, but it is thought that the name originated either with Gosnold's mother-in-law or his second child, both of whom were named Martha. His daughter was christened in St James' Church (now St Edmundsbury Cathedral), Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, England and is buried in the Great Churchyard which lies in front of the Abbey ruins between St Mary's Church and the Cathedral.[11]

The island was also known as Martin's Vineyard (perhaps after the captain of Gosnold's ship, John Martin); many islanders up to the 18th century called it by this name.[12] The United States Board on Geographic Names worked to standardize placename spellings in the late 19th century, including the dropping of apostrophes. Thus for a time Martha's Vineyard was officially named Marthas Vineyard, but the Board reversed its decision in the early 20th century, making Martha's Vineyard one of the five[13][14] placenames in the United States today with a possessive apostrophe.[15]

Colonial era[edit]

First book brought to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket by European settlers. Shiwei Jiang's private collection
Classicist house next to the Whaling Church

English settlement began with the purchase of Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, and the Elizabeth Islands by Thomas Mayhew of Watertown, Massachusetts from two English "owners". He had friendly relations with the Wampanoags on the island, in part because he was careful to honor their land rights. His son, also named Thomas Mayhew, began the first English settlement in 1642 at Great Harbor (later Edgartown, Massachusetts).[citation needed]

The younger Mayhew began a relationship with Hiacoomes, an Indian neighbor, which eventually led to Hiacoomes' family converting to Christianity. Ultimately, many of the tribe became Christian, including the pow-wows (spiritual leaders) and sachems (political leaders). During King Philip's War later in the century, the Martha's Vineyard band did not join their tribal relatives in the uprising and remained armed, a testimony to the good relations cultivated by the Mayhews as the leaders of the English colony.[citation needed] In 1657, the younger Thomas Mayhew was drowned when a ship he was travelling in was lost at sea on a voyage to England. Mayhew's grandsons Matthew Mayhew (1648-), John Mayhew (1652-), and other members of his family assisted him in running his business and government.[16] In 1665, Mayhew's lands were included in a grant to the Duke of York. In 1671, a settlement was arranged which allowed Mayhew to continue in his position while placing his territory under the jurisdiction of the Province of New York. In 1682, Matthew Mayhew succeeded his grandfather as Governor and Chief Magistrate, and occasionally preached to the Indians. He was also appointed judge of the Court of Common Pleas for Dukes county in 1697, and remained on the bench until 1700. He was judge of probate from 1696 to 1710.[17] In 1683, Dukes County, New York was incorporated, including Martha's Vineyard. In 1691, at the collapse of rule by Sir Edmund Andros and the reorganization of Massachusetts as a royal colony, Dukes County was transferred back to the Province of Massachusetts Bay, and split into the county of Dukes County, Massachusetts and Nantucket County, Massachusetts.[citation needed]

Indian literacy in the schools founded by Thomas Mayhew Jr. and taught by Peter Folger, the grandfather of Benjamin Franklin, was such that the first Native American graduates of Harvard were from Martha's Vineyard, including the son of Hiacoomes, Joel Hiacoomes. "The ship Joel Hiacoomes was sailing on, as he was returning to Boston from a trip home shortly before the graduation ceremonies, was found wrecked on the shores of Nantucket Island. Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk, the son of a sachem of Homes Hole, did graduate from Harvard in the class of 1665."[18] Cheeshahteaumauk's Latin address to the corporation (New England Corporation), which begins "Honoratissimi benefactores" (most honored benefactors), has been preserved.[19] In addition to speaking Wampanoag and English, they studied Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. All of the early Indian graduates died shortly after completing their course of study. Many native preachers on the island, however, also preached in the English churches from time to time.[citation needed]

Hon. Leavitt Thaxter, Edgartown educator.

Mayhew's successor as leader of the community was the Hon. Leavitt Thaxter,[20] who married Martha Mayhew, a descendant of Thomas Mayhew, and was an Edgartown educator described by Indian Commissioner John Milton Earle as "a long and steadfast friend to the Indians."[21] After living in Northampton, Thaxter, a lawyer,[22] returned home to Edgartown, where he took over the school founded by his father, Rev. Joseph Thaxter,[23][24] and served in the State House and the Senate, was a member of the Massachusetts Governor's Council and later served as U. S. Customs Collector for Martha's Vineyard.[25] Having rechristened his father's Edgartown school Thaxter Academy, Hon. Leavitt Thaxter was granted on Feb. 15, 1845, the sum of $50-per-year for "the support of William Johnson, an Indian of the Chappequiddic tribe." By this time, Leavitt Thaxter[26] had taken on the role, described in an act passed by the General Court of Massachusetts, as "guardian of the Indians and people of color resident at Chappequiddic and Indiantown in the County of Dukes County."[27] Thaxter Academy, founded by Leavitt Thaxter as first principal in 1825, became known for educating both white and Native American youth.[28]

19th century[edit]

Like the nearby island of Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard was brought to prominence in the 19th century by the whaling industry, during which ships were sent around the world to hunt whales for their oil and blubber. The discovery of petroleum in Pennsylvania gave rise to a cheaper source of oil for lamps and led to an almost complete collapse of the industry by 1870. After the Old Colony railroad came to mainland Woods Hole in 1872, summer residences began to develop on the island, such as the community of Harthaven established by William H. Hart, and later, the community of Ocean Heights, developed near Sengekontacket Pond in Edgartown by the prominent island businessman, Robert Marsden Laidlaw.[29] Although the island struggled financially through the Great Depression, its reputation as a resort for tourists and the wealthy continued to grow. There is still a substantial Wampanoag population on the Vineyard, mainly located in the town of Aquinnah. Aquinnah means "land under the hill" in the Wampanoag language.[citation needed]

The island was the last refuge of the Heath Hen, a once common game bird. Despite 19th Century efforts to protect the hen, by 1927, the population of birds had dropped to 13. The last known Heath Hen perished on Martha's Vineyard in 1932.[30]

Modern era[edit]

Gay Head Cliffs on Martha's Vineyard.

The linguist William Labov wrote his MA essay on changes in the Martha's Vineyard dialect of English.[31] The 1963 study is widely recognized as a seminal work in the foundation of sociolinguistics.[32]

The island received international notoriety after the July 18, 1969, Chappaquiddick incident, in which Mary Jo Kopechne was killed in a car driven off the Dike Bridge by U.S. Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy. The bridge crossed Poucha Pond on Chappaquiddick Island (a smaller island formerly connected to the Vineyard and part of Edgartown). As a foot bridge, it was intended for people on foot and bicycles, as well as the occasional emergency vehicle when conditions warranted. Currently, 4×4 vehicles with passes are allowed to cross the reconstructed bridge.[citation needed]

On November 23, 1970, in the Atlantic Ocean just west of Aquinnah, Simas Kudirka, a Soviet seaman of Lithuanian nationality, attempted to defect to the United States by leaping onto a United States Coast Guard cutter from a Soviet ship. The Coast Guard allowed a detachment of KGB agents to board the cutter, and subsequently arrested Kudirka, taking him back to the Soviet Union.[citation needed]

In 1974, Steven Spielberg filmed the movie Jaws on Martha's Vineyard, most notably in the fishing village of Menemsha and the town of Chilmark. Spielberg selected island natives Christopher Rebello as Chief Brody's oldest son, Michael Brody; Jay Mello as the younger son, Sean Brody; and Lee Fierro as Mrs. Kintner.[33] Scores of other island natives appeared in the film as extras. Later, scenes from Jaws 2 and Jaws: The Revenge were filmed on the island, as well. In June 2005 the island celebrated the 30th anniversary of Jaws with a weekend-long Jawsfest.[citation needed]

In 1977, distressed over losing their guaranteed seat in the Massachusetts General Court, inhabitants of Martha's Vineyard considered the possibility of secession from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, either to become part of another state (having received offers from both Vermont and Hawaii), reincorporating as a separate U.S. territory, or as the nation's 51st state. The separatist flag, consisting of a white seagull over an orange disk on a sky-blue background, is still seen on the island today. Although the idea of separation from Massachusetts eventually proved impracticable, it did receive attention in the local, regional, and even national media.[34]

On March 5, 1982, John Belushi died of a drug overdose in Los Angeles, California, and was buried four days later in Abel's Hill Cemetery in Chilmark. Belushi often visited the Vineyard and his family felt it fitting to bury him there. On his gravestone is the quote: "Though I may be gone, Rock 'N' Roll lives on." Because of the many visitors to his grave and the threat of vandalism, his body was moved somewhere nearby the grave site. His grave remains a popular site for visitors to Chilmark and they often leave tokens in memory of the late comedian.[35][36]

In the television show The X-Files, Fox Mulder's parents live on the island of Martha's Vineyard.[citation needed]

Bill Clinton spent vacation time on the island during and after his presidency, along with his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and their daughter, Chelsea. Clinton was not the first president to visit the islands; Ulysses S. Grant visited the vacation residence of his friend, Bishop Gilbert Haven on August 24, 1874. As a coincidental footnote in history, Bishop Haven's gingerbread cottage was located in Oak Bluffs at 10 Clinton Avenue. The avenue was named in 1851 and was designated as the main promenade of the Martha's Vineyard Campmeeting Association campgrounds.[37] On August 23, 2009, Barack Obama arrived in Chilmark with his family for a week's vacation at a rental property known as Blue Heron Farm.[38]

On July 16, 1999, a small plane crashed off the coast of Martha's Vineyard, claiming the lives of pilot John F. Kennedy, Jr., his wife Carolyn Bessette and her sister Lauren Bessette. Kennedy's mother, former U.S. first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, maintained a home in Aquinnah (formerly "Gay Head") until her death in 1994.[citation needed]

In the summer of 2000, an outbreak of tularemia, also known as rabbit fever, resulted in one death and piqued the interest of the CDC, which wanted to test the island as a potential investigative ground for aerosolized Francisella tularensis. Over the following summers, Martha's Vineyard was identified as the only place in the world where documented cases of tularemia resulted from lawn mowing.[39] The research could prove valuable in preventing bioterrorism.[citation needed]

Martha's Vineyard was the setting for Robert Harris' 2007 novel, the political thriller The Ghost.[citation needed]

Hereditary deafness and sign language[edit]

A high rate of hereditary deafness was documented on Martha's Vineyard for almost two centuries. The island's deaf heritage cannot be traced to one common ancestor and is thought to have originated in the Weald, a region that overlaps the borders of the English counties of Kent and Sussex, prior to immigration. Researcher Nora Groce estimates that by the late 19th century, 1 in 155 people on the Vineyard was born deaf (0.7 percent), about 37 times the estimate for the nation at large (1 in 5,728, or 0.02 percent), attributed to local inbreeding.[40]

Mixed marriages between deaf and hearing spouses comprised 65% of all deaf marriages on the island in the late 19th century, higher than the mainland average of 20%,[41] and Martha's Vineyard Sign Language (MVSL) was commonly used by hearing residents as well as deaf ones until the middle of the 20th century.[42] This allowed deaf residents to integrate into society smoothly.[citation needed]

In the 20th century, tourism became a mainstay in the island economy. However, jobs in tourism were not as deaf-friendly as fishing and farming had been. Consequently, as intermarriage and further migration joined the people of Martha's Vineyard to the mainland, the island community more and more resembled the wider community there.[citation needed]

The last deaf person born into the island's sign language tradition, Katie West, died in 1952, but a few elderly residents were able to recall MVSL as recently as the 1980s when research into the language began.[40][43]


According to the Köppen climate classification system, the climate of the island borders between a humid continental climate (Dfa/Dfb), a humid subtropical climate (Cfa), and an oceanic climate (Cfb), the latter a climate type rarely found on the east coast of North America.[44] Martha's Vineyard's climate is highly influenced by the surrounding Atlantic Ocean, which moderates temperatures throughout the year. As a result, winter temperatures tend to be a few degrees warmer while summer temperatures tend to be cooler than inland locations. Winters are cool to cold with a January average of just slightly below 32 °F (0.0 °C).[45] Owing to the influence of the Atlantic Ocean, temperatures below 0 °F (−17.8 °C) are rare, occurring at least 1 day per year and most days during the winter months rise above freezing.[45] The average annual snowfall is 25.3 inches (643 mm). Summers are warm and mild with temperatures rarely exceeding 90 °F (32.2 °C), with only 1 or 2 days reaching or exceeding it.[45] During the summer months, the island's warmest months (July and August) average around 71.5 °F (21.9 °C). Spring and fall are transition seasons with spring being cooler than fall. Martha`s Vineyard receives 46.94 inches (1,192 mm) of precipitation per year, which is evenly distributed throughout the year. The highest daily maximum temperature was 99 °F (37.2 °C) on August 27, 1948, and the highest daily minimum temperature was 76 °F (24.4 °C) on September 4, 2010. The lowest daily maximum temperature was 7 °F (−13.9 °C) on December 26, 1980, and the lowest daily minimum temperature was −9 °F (−22.8 °C) on February 2 and 3, 1961.[45]

Climate data for Martha's Vineyard (Edgartown, Massachusetts)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 65
Average high °F (°C) 39.5
Daily mean °F (°C) 31.8
Average low °F (°C) 24.2
Record low °F (°C) −6
Average precipitation inches (mm) 3.85
Average snowfall inches (cm) 5.7
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 12 10 11 12 12 10 8 9 9 10 12 12 125
Source: Western Regional Climate Center (normals 1981–2010, extremes and snow 1946-2012)[45]


Ocean Park gazebo, Oak Bluffs

Martha's Vineyard is divided into six towns. Each town is governed by a board of selectmen elected by town voters, along with annual and periodic town meetings. Each town is also a member of the Martha's Vineyard Commission, which regulates island-wide building, environmental, and aesthetic concerns.[citation needed]

Some government programs on the island have been regionalized, such as the public school system, emergency management and waste management. There is a growing push for further regionalization areas of law enforcement, water treatment, and possible government regionalization.[citation needed]

Each town also follows certain regulations from Dukes County. The towns are:[citation needed]

  • Tisbury, which includes the main village of Vineyard Haven, and the West Chop peninsula. It is the island's primary port of entry for people and cargo, supplemented by the seasonal port in Oak Bluffs.
  • Edgartown, which includes Chappaquiddick island and Katama. Edgartown is noted for its rich whaling tradition, and is the island's largest town by population and area. It is one of the island's "wet" towns.
  • Oak Bluffs is most well known for its gingerbread cottages, open harbor, and its vibrant town along busy Circuit Avenue. Oak Bluffs enjoys a reputation as one of the more active night-life towns on the island for both residents and tourists, and is also a "wet" town. It was known as "Cottage City" from its separation from Edgartown in 1880 until its reincorporation as Oak Bluffs in 1907. Oak Bluffs includes several communities that have been popular destinations for affluent African Americans since the early 20th century.[46] It also includes the East Chop peninsula, Lagoon Heights and Harthaven.
  • West Tisbury is the island's agricultural center, and hosts the well known Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Fair in late August each year.
  • Chilmark, including the fishing village of Menemsha. Chilmark is also rural and features the island's hilliest terrain. It is the birthplace of George Claghorn, master shipbuilder of the USS Constitution, a.k.a. "Old Ironsides".
  • Aquinnah, Aquinnah is home to the Wampanoag Indian tribe and clay cliffs.



Martha's Vineyard is located approximately seven miles off the southern coast of Cape Cod. It is reached by a ferry that departs from Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and by several other ferries departing from Falmouth, New Bedford, Hyannis, Quonset Point, Rhode Island, and the East 35th Street ferry terminal in Manhattan. The Steamship Authority operates most of the shorter routes, while other, smaller ferry services run faster, longer distance ferries to Rhode Island and Hyannis. There are direct ferries to each place. SeaStreak operates the seasonal, weekend New York City to Martha's Vineyard route. One ferry departs New York City on Friday afternoon and returns on Sunday night. The trip through Long Island Sound and along the shoreline of Rhode Island and Massachusetts takes about four and a half hours (270 minutes).[citation needed]


The commuter airline, Cape Air offers frequent service to Martha's Vineyard via the Martha's Vineyard Airport (MVY). Cape Air provides service year-round to islanders and visitors to Boston, Hyannis, New Bedford, Providence, and Nantucket. Cape Air also provides seasonal services to White Plains, New York. Additional air service is provided by Continental Express, which provides a seasonal service to Newark Liberty International Airport, and US Airways Express, which serves New York-LaGuardia and Hyannis year-round, as well as Philadelphia and Washington-Reagan seasonally. JetBlue now services the island out of New York's Kennedy Airport. The airport also handles much general aviation traffic. There is also Katama airpark, with grass runways, that is popular with private pilots. It is located near South Beach.[citation needed]

Mass transit[edit]

Bus service is provided on the island year-round by the Martha's Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA).[47]


Martha's Vineyard is served by Martha's Vineyard Public Schools:

Five of the six towns have their own elementary schools, while Aquinnah residents usually attend nearby Chilmark's elementary school. The Chilmark school serves only grades pre-K to 5, so students in grades 6 - 8 must attend another middle school—usually the West Tisbury school.[55] The Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School, located in West Tisbury, serves the entire island and provides grades K-12. Martha's Vineyard Regional High School, which is located in Oak Bluffs, serves the entire island.[citation needed]

Tourism and culture[edit]

The Vineyard grew as a tourist destination primarily because of its very pleasant summer weather (during summers, the temperature rarely breaks 32 °C / 90 °F) and many beautiful beaches. It is primarily a place where people go to relax. Most social life and activity takes place at people's houses, not in the very small towns.[citation needed]

During the whaling era, wealthy Boston sea captains and merchant traders often created estates on Martha's Vineyard with their trading profits. Today, the Vineyard has become one of the Northeast's most prominent summering havens, having attracted numerous celebrity regulars.[citation needed]

The island now has a year-round population of about 15,000 people in six towns; in summer, the population increases to 100,000 residents, with more than 25,000 additional short-term visitors coming and going on the ferries during the summer season. The most crowded weekend is July 4, followed by the late-August weekend of the Agricultural Fair. In general, the summer season runs from June through Labor Day weekend, coinciding with the months most American children are not in school.[citation needed]

In 1985, the two islands of Martha's Vineyard and Chappaquiddick Island were included in a new American Viticultural Area designation for wine appellation of origin specification: Martha's Vineyard AVA. Wines produced from grapes grown on the two islands can be sold with labels that carry the Martha's Vineyard AVA designation. Martha's Vineyard was the home to the winemaker Chicama Vineyards in West Tisbury, though it closed after 37 years on August 10, 2008.[56]

Other popular attractions include the annual Grand Illumination in Oak Bluffs; the Martha's VIneyard Film Center, an arthouse cinema operated by the non-profit Martha's Vineyard Film Society,[57] which screens independent and world cinema all year long; the Martha's Vineyard Film Festival,[58] which runs a winter film festival in March, a Summer Film Series and Cinema Circus every Wednesday in July and August, the Martha's Vineyard African-American Film Festival,[59] which showcases the works of independent and established African-American filmmakers in August, and Martha's Vineyard International Film Festival in September; the Farm Institute at Katama Farm in Edgartown;[60] and the Flying Horses Carousel in Oak Bluffs, the oldest operating platform carousel in the United States.[citation needed]

Island life and residents[edit]

Its relatively small year-round population has led to a very activist citizenry who are highly involved in the island's day-to-day activities. Tourism, overdevelopment, politics, and environmentalism are of keen interest to the community. Keeping the balance between the much needed tourist economy and the ecology and wildlife of the island is of paramount importance to residents. In contrast to the seasonal influx of wealthy visitors, Dukes County remains one of the poorest in the state. Residents have established resources to balance the contradictions and stresses that can arise in these circumstances, notably the Martha's Vineyard Commission[61] and Martha's Vineyard Community Services,[62] founded by the late Dr. Milton Mazer, author of People and Predicaments: Of Life and Distress on Martha's Vineyard.[63]

The majority of the Vineyard's residents during the summer are well-established seasonal residents from up and down the Northeast coast of the United States. While many of these summer residents come from all over the United States and abroad, the island tends to be a destination for those within close proximity. Many communities around the island tend to have deep family roots in the island that have matured over the years to create hamlets of good friends and neighbors. Nevertheless, many visitors are summer renters and weekenders, for whom the island is simply a "home away from home".[citation needed]

Many high-profile residents, movie stars, politicians, writers, and artists contribute to fundraisers and benefits that raise awareness of the fragile ecosystem of the Vineyard and support community organizations and services. The largest of these is the annual Possible Dreams Auction.[64]

Martha's Vineyard has also been or is home to a number of artists and musicians, including Albert Alcalay, Evan Dando, Tim "Johnny Vegas" Burton of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, James Taylor, Carly Simon, Livingston Taylor, Kate Taylor, Alex Taylor, Tom Rush, Geoff Muldaur, Maria Muldaur, Willy Mason, Unbusted and Mike Nichols. Historian and author David McCullough is also an island resident, as are the young-adult books authors: Judy Blume and Norman Bridwell, and crime/political intrigue novelist Richard North Patterson. Late authors Shel Silverstein and William Styron also lived on the Vineyard, as did writer, journalist and teacher John Hersey, poet and novelist Dorothy West and artist Thomas Hart Benton. Various writers have been inspired by the island—including the mystery writer Philip R. Craig who set several novels on the island. On related note, Martha's Vineyard Poet Laureate, Lee H. McCormack, has written many poems about the island. The Academy Award winning Patricia Neal owned a home on South Water St in Edgartown, and James Cagney, Lillian Hellman (who is buried in Abel's Hill Cemetery near the site of Belushi's grave), and Katharine Cornell all found the Vineyard an exciting, rewarding place to live.[citation needed] In addition the famous Life Magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt was a fifty-year summer resident of the Vineyard until his death in 1995. Since 2006 the Australian born author Geraldine Brooks, writer of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel [65] March, has lived there with her husband, [(Tony Horwitz)], himself a Pulitzer Prize winner and successful novelist, and their two sons.[citation needed]

Barack Obama playing basketball while on vacation in Martha's Vineyard, August 2009

Other well-known celebrities who live on or have regularly visited the island: Famously renowned Harlem Renaissance artist Lois Mailou Jones, U.S. President Barack Obama,[38] former president Bill Clinton and his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; comedian and talk show host David Letterman; Bill Murray; Tony Shalhoub; Quincy Jones; Ted Danson and wife Mary Steenburgen; Peng Zhu; Larry David; the Farrelly brothers; Meg Ryan; Chelsea Handler. Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes was a summer resident of Martha's Vineyard. Late anchorman Walter Cronkite was a prominent summer resident as well. Other regularly appearing celebrities include film writer/director Spike Lee, attorney Alan Dershowitz, comedians Dan Aykroyd and James Belushi, politico Vernon Jordan, and television news reporters Diane Sawyer, former Ambassador and President of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, William H. Luers and Charlayne Hunter-Gault. Despite popular perceptions of the Vineyard as "Hollywood East", the island is very low-key and quiet; celebrities go to the Vineyard to enjoy the atmosphere, and not to be seen. Locals tend to be protective of celebrity privacy, though recent coverage of celebrity sightings (most notably in the two local newspapers on the Island) has begun to erode that respect for privacy through more frequent reporting on celebrity sightings and famous visitors.[66] In August 2014, both President Obama and Hillary Clinton planned to have overlapping visits to the island, where the presence of security details that create traffic challenges is becoming an annual affair.[67] Vineyard social life often occurs in private, down country roads, and not in the small towns, only two of which even sell alcohol (Oak Bluffs and Edgartown).[citation needed]

Many of the country's most affluent black families have enjoyed a century-old tradition of summering on the island. Concentrated primarily in and around the town of Oak Bluffs, and the East Chop area, these families have historically represented the black elite from Boston; Washington, D.C.; and New York City. Today, affluent black families from around the country have taken to the Vineyard, and the community is known as a popular summer destination for judges, physicians, business executives, surgeons, attorneys, writers, politicians, and professors. The historic presence of black residents on the island resulted in the nickname of one of Oak Bluff's most popular beaches. Dubbed "The Inkwell", this small beach is central to Oak Bluffs and within short walking distance to many of the homes of the more notable black families. The Inkwell (1994), directed by Matty Rich, dealt with this close-knit Vineyard community.[citation needed]

The Run&Shoot Filmworks Martha's Vineyard African-American Film Festival held every second week in August, highlights the works of independent and established African-American filmmakers from across the globe. This annual event draws attendees from all across the world.[citation needed]

Since the 19th century, the island has had a sizable community of Portuguese-Americans, concentrated primarily in the three down-Island towns of Oak Bluffs, Tisbury, and Edgartown; they have traditionally worked alongside other island residents in whaling and fishing. It also has a large community of Brazilian immigrants who work mainly in the maintenance of the island’s vacation facilities.[68]

The island's permanent residents were profiled in a London Telegraph article showing "the dark side of Martha's Vineyard".[69]

In the same month an article titled "Edgartown's Darker Side" appeared in the Boston Globe detailing the extremely poor working conditions suffered by Irish and Serbian students in a newly built private members club in Edgartown.[citation needed]

The year-round working population of Martha's Vineyard earns 30% less on average than other residents of the state while keeping up with a cost of living that is 60% higher than average.[70] Many people are moving to more affordable areas. Schools have seen a successive drop in enrollment over the past few years. Typically home to artists, musicians, and other creative types, the Island has many residents who manage by working several jobs in the summer and taking some time off in the winter. The lack of affordable housing on the island has forced many families to move off-island.[citation needed]

Martha's Vineyard television and radio[edit]

Most Vineyard residents also have access to FM and AM radio broadcasting from the Greater Boston Area, along with television stations from Boston via both US satellite providers (DirecTV & Dish Network), Comcast Xfinity cable, and RCN Cable. With reception methods powerful enough, it is also possible to receive Boston TV stations, along with Providence stations, over-the-air.

Local newspapers[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Spring Gale Roars Through Island, Norton Point Is Breached". Retrieved 2015-04-03. 
  2. ^ "Land Meets Land; Norton Point Breach Closes". Retrieved 2015-04-03. 
  3. ^ "Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields: Southeastern Massachusetts". Retrieved 2015-04-04. 
  4. ^ Groce, Nora Ellen (2009). Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0674037953. Retrieved 2015-08-12. 
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  • Gookin, Historical Collections, 53; Railton, "Vineyard's First Harvard men", 91-112.
  • Monaghan, E.J.(2005). Learning to Read and Write in Colonial America University of Massachusetts Press. Boston: MA

Coordinates: 41°24′N 70°37′W / 41.400°N 70.617°W / 41.400; -70.617