Martha’s Vineyard…so much more than its “hoity-toity” image
I'm standing at the porch of one of the ornate Victorian-style gingerbread trim cottages, on what is known as The Campground site in Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard. About 300 or so of the original 500 cottages remain as part of the 34-acre Martha's Vineyard Campmeeting Association or The Campgrounds, it was the first summer religious camp established in the United States. Aug. 23, 2017
Just the name…Martha’s Vineyard…evokes an image. In my case, it was a stereotypical image of “hoity-toity rich white people who spent glamorous summers on this exclusive island.” Now, after spending four days and three nights on Martha’s Vineyard, I finally understand its creative, charming, magnetic, historical and downright beautiful allure. Yes, it has a scenic landscape and there’s something about being on an island with so much beauty and historical richness that enters your soul once the ferry docks on the island…but its true blessing, for me, are the people who live there and gather there that broadened both my image of Martha’s Vineyard and my soul.
It’s people of all colors. Let me just be blunt. I’ve never seen so many people of color on an island with a reputation, in my viewpoint, of being white and rich. But it’s the spirit of the people, really, all the people I encountered, that gather on this island who bring out its warmness, kindness and sense of oneness. If you haven’t guessed it already, I fell in love with Martha’s Vineyard and the people who inhabit its essence.
Phineas, a longtime family friend who lives in Boston, joined me and drove his car onto the island…which turned out to be a wonderful idea because we were able to venture out and really see the whole gorgeous island.
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 and dropped to a little more than 300 by 1764. 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 island does have a celebrity reputation and if they were there when I was there, we didn’t run into one another. The Obamas had been on the island taking their annual summer vacation during the early part of this month, while I was just on the island this past week. And, its rumored that a number of celebrities including Spike Lee, Rosie O’Donnell, David Letterman, Carly Simon, Neil Patrick Harris, Yoko Ono and probably others are said to own a piece of Martha’s Vineyard heaven…and at a very deep pocketed price.
The late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis maintained a home there until her death in 1994 and her son, John F. Kennedy Jr., with his wife and her sister lost their lives in a small plane crash off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard in 1999.
Martha’s Vineyard is broken down into six towns and each has its own personality: Tisbury, Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, West Tisbury, Chilmark and Aquinnah.