Martha’s vineyard: an American tradition
Martha’s Vineyard Island is located on the east coast of the United States, south of the Cape Cod peninsula. It was named ‘Martha’s Vineyard’ 300 years ago, when the captain of a whaling ship named it after its daughter to the wild vineyards that grew there. Belonging to Dukes County, Massachusetts, the island was originally inhabited by the Wampanoag Indians. They called it Noepe, which means in the native tongue “land between the stream”.
In the colonial era, the English converted most of the natives of the island to Christianity and with this they laid the foundations for a future coexistence that would become a model for the rest of the country. Its inhabitants dedicated themselves for centuries to fishing, forming a traditional community of fishermen.
In the 19th century, after a long history of economic irrelevance, the island gained international visibility due to its powerful whaling industry, which commercialized whale oil for lighthouses and lamps. From then on, the port of Edgartown became an important wharf where a large number of international ships docked in its bay in search of shelter.
Boston’s wealthy captains and merchants built large family mansions along Water Street, facing the harbor, following the pattern of classical New England architecture. The finding of oil in Pennsylvania, which would eventually replace whale oil because of its low costs, caused the decline of the local economy at the end of the 19th century.
The arrival in 1872 of the railway line to Woods Hole, in the continental part, contributed to the fluidity of the communications, with what began to proliferate in the island the residences of summer.
Martha’s Vineyard was also popular at that time as a meeting place for the Methodist faithful who gathered each summer in large outdoor camps in the Oak Bluffs prairies. Many of the families that congregated every year in that place began to build their own homes: small cottages, or wooden houses, painted in bright colors and adorned with balconies, porches and whimsical roofs. Over 350 of these beautiful summer residences, popularly known as gingerbread cottages, or gingerbread houses, which were declared historical monuments in 2005, were built over time.
In the last century, famous politicians and celebrities of the time came to the island for saltwater fishing and duck hunting, choosing for their stay old farms and rustic camps. Decades later, the farms gave way to large mansions and Martha’s Vineyard became an exclusive paradise of illustrious personalities. If in the past Ulysses S. Grant and Richard Nixon chose to spend their vacations on the island, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have done so more recently.
But Martha’s Vineyard is not just a traditional summer resort for the American upper class, but many artists and celebrities have had and have a second home on the island, including: Spike Lee, David Letterman, Carly Simon, James Taylor, Mike Nichols and the Kennedy family.
One of the things that celebrities value most of the island is the quiet and discreet environment that allows them to make their living without having to be seen frequently. After all, this land has never ceased to be a traditional fishing community that has a stable population of only 15,000 inhabitants.
Martha’s Vineyard is very appreciated for its great maritime and country landscapes. Visitors, especially attracted by a cultural tradition in which everything revolves around the sea, can enjoy sailing, fishing and beaches with crystal clear waters with ideal temperatures for a sea bath. Outdoor activities are also very popular, especially bicycle or walking tours through paths that cross magnificently preserved natural landscapes. Between these places the surroundings of Chilmark stand out, with their vast and undulating meadows, and the region of Aquinnah, with its picturesque scenes of winding regional roads that end in dramatic clay cliffs.
At the end of the day, the spectacular sunsets in places like Menemsha or Chappaquiddick gather a lot of people. And do not forget to visit urban areas, including the city of Oak Bluff, colorful houses that seem to be taken from a fairy tale, and the historic town of Edgartown. In the latter, night walks are very popular to its imposing lighthouse under the light of the streetlights, and the tours along the seafront, where the noble Victorian mansions are aligned.
Those who visit Martha’s Vineyard in winter discover a different, but equally attractive, face of the island. And it does not matter what season of the year they choose to travel, the essential thing is to know a land that is part of the best of the cultural tradition of the east coast of the United States.