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Martha’s Vineyard History

A 100 Year Island Time Line

In 2011, the Vineyard Square Hotel celebrated its 100th year offering Martha’s Vineyard Hospitality.  The following timeline outlines some of the most important events happening on “The Vineyard” throughout this time period.

1911 – The Colonial Inn opens for its first season.
1911 –  Sankaty, the first propeller steamer in Martha’s Vineyard service makes its maiden voyage.
1915 – The Edgartown Tennis Club was built.
1916 – The largest wildfire in Vineyard history starts on the great plain and consumes a fifth of the island’s acreage in a day.
1918 – The Edgartown fishing schooner, Progress, is sunk off of Georges Bank by a German U-boat.
1918 – The electric railway between Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs is shut down.
1918-19 – 27 Vineyarders died in 20 weeks during a worldwide influenza epidemic.
1920 – Our Lady of the Sea Church is dedicated in Oak Bluffs.
1921 – The Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road is paved.
1922 – The Dukes County Historical Society (now Martha’s Vineyard Museum) is founded.
1922 – Original Martha’s Vineyard Hospital is built.
1923 – The steamer Islander makes its maiden voyage.  It is the first modern car-carrying vessel to
Martha’s Vineyard.
1923 – Rum-running pirates massacre and sink the steamer John Dwight in Vineyard Sound.
1924 – The steamer Sankaty burns overnight in New Bedford.
1924 – The Martha’s Vineyard Garden Club is established.  It is the first conservation group on the Island.
1925 – The steamer Nobska is built to replace the Sankaty.
1925 – The first trees are planted in what becomes the state forest.
1925 – The Federated Church is established in Edgartown with the merging of the Congregational and Baptist congregations.
1925 – St Elizabeth’s Catholic Church opens in Edgartown.
1926 – Western Union purchases Martha’s Vineyard Telegraph Co.
1926 – Edgartown Golf Club is organized.
1928 – The steamer New Bedford makes its maiden voyage.  It is the third new steamer in a decade.
1928 – First Christian Science Society established in Vineyard Haven.
1928 – The steamers Islander and Nobska are renamed the Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
1928 – The ocean liner President Garfield and the freighter Kershaw collide and the Kershaw sinks off of East Chop, killing seven crew.
1929 – Dial telephones are first installed in Vineyard Haven.
1929 – The Gay Head Public Library is established.
1929 – North Road is completed.
1930 – Island population is up to 4953.
1931 – South Road to Gay Head is completed.
1931– The steamer Nantucket grounds for eight days off of the entrance to Cape Pogue.  This is the longest grounding in the island’s steamship history.
1932 – The last heath hen dies on Martha’s Vineyard.  The species is now extinct.
1932 – The East Chop Beach Club is organized.
1934 – The first motorized car ferry to Chappaquiddick begins service.
1934 – The Martha’s Vineyard steamship schedules discontinues Edgartown as a port.
1934 – Chappaquiddick gets its first electric lights.
1934 – The first Hebrew temple on Martha’s Vineyard is established in Vineyard Haven.
1938 – State Beach is purchased.
1938 – Edgartown has the installation of first dial telephones.
1938 – First air mail service to the island.
1938 – The Great New England Hurricane destroys Menemsha.
1939 – The current Edgartown lighthouse is moved from Ipswich, MA to its current location.
1939 – Mink Meadows Golf Club is established at West Chop.
1940- The Vineyard community is shocked by the brutal murder of Clara Smith.  Miss Smith is on the Island attending the Phidelah Rice School. The murder is never solved.
1942 – The Martha’s Vineyard Naval Air Station is established at location of the future Dukes County Airport.   US Navy begins practice bombing runs on Noman’s Land.
1943 – The last Vineyard cargo vessel under sail, the Alice S. Wentworth, departs the island.
1943 – The Martha’s Vineyard Cooperative Dairy is established.
1944 – Forty men are killed in training missions at the Vineyard air base since 1943.
1944 – The Vineyard Lightship sinks during the Hurricane of 1944, killing 12 Coast Guardsmen.
1944 – The first regular air service between Martha’s Vineyard and the mainland is established.
1945 – Martha’s Vineyard marks its tercentenary.
1945 – The Island chapter of the Holy Ghost Society is organized.
1946 – The first full-time ferry goes into service on the Island line.  The Hudson River ferry “Hackensack” is refurbished and commissioned for Vineyard use as the Islander.
1946 – The first Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass Derby is held.
1948 – The original ferry On Time begins service between Chappaquiddick and Edgartown.
1948 – The Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, New Bedford, and Woods Hole Steamship Authority is created.
1949 – The Island’s last whaling master, Capt. Ellsworth Luce West, dies.
1950 – The ferry The Islander began service.
1950 – The State Lobster Hatchery opens in Oak Bluffs.
1950 – The first women jurors in Massachusetts are impaneled at court house.
1951 – Gay Head gets electric lights and the electrification of the island and state is complete.
1952 – The former Coast Guard station is barged across Vineyard Sound from Cuttyhunk to Menemsha.
1954 – Camp Jabberwocky opens as the first sleepover summer camp for disabled children and adults in North America.
1954 – Hurricanes Carol and Edna batter the Vineyard 12 days apart.
1955 – Chilmark Community Center opens.
1955 – Dial telephones are installed at Chilmark and Gay Head.
1956 – The Island’s last lighthouse keeper, Joseph Hindley, retires from his post at Gay Head lighthouse.
1957 – The Naushon is last steamer built for the Island line.
1959 – The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School opens.
1959 – The Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation is established, and Trustees of Reservations buys its first property on Martha’s Vineyard.
1960 – The longest strike in boat line history disrupts service from spring to early summer.  New Bedford is dropped from the Steamship Authority.
1961 – Edward M. Brooke, and Oak Bluffs summer resident, is the first black to win statewide office in Massachusetts.
1961 – The Edgartown Playhouse movie theatre on Main St. is destroyed by fire.
1961 – Martha’s Vineyard Community Services is organized.
1961 – Stanley M. Fisher, an Oak Bluffs scalloper hooks on to a nuclear powered submarine, the Nautilus.
1962 – St. Augustine’s Church dedicates its new building in Vineyard Haven.
1963 – Martha’s Vineyard Cooperative Dairy closes down.
1964 – The topsail schooner Shenandoah arrives in Vineyard Haven harbor.
1965 – Fires in Oak Bluffs destroy Steamship Authority Wharf and the Ocean View Hotel.
1965 – Gay Head Cliffs become national landmark, and the Vineyard Conservation Society is established.
1966 – The one-room “little red schoolhouse” in Gay Head closes.
1968 – George M. Moffett Jr. gives Felix Neck to Massachusetts Audubon Society.
1969 – Accident at Chappaquiddick claims the life of Mary Jo Kopechne.
1969 – A campaign to preserve a glacial mound at the end of an airport runway leads to the printing of “Save the Sub-Standard Bump” bumper stickers.
1970 – The first women are elected into local politics.  A Gay Head selectwoman and a Dukes County commissioner.
1970 – The first commercial jets land at airport.
1970 – The Vineyard Open Land Foundation is established.
1971 – Katherine Cornell gives refurbished town hall to Tisbury on its 300th anniversary.
1971 – Vineyard population is 6,117 and first osprey pole is erected.
1971 – Fishing shacks and working waterfront of Menemsha are preserved.
1971 – Gay Head celebrates its centennial.
1972 – Sen. Edward Kennedy proposes Islands Trust Bill to protect the Vineyard from overdevelopment.
1972 – First bike paths are laid on the Vineyard.  Paths run between Oak Bluffs and Edgartown and through the State Forest.
1973 – The Steamship Authority purchases its first freight boat, the Auriga.
1973 – The famed Lovers’ Rock is buried in beach buildup project at Oak Bluffs.
1974 – JAWS is filmed on Martha’s Vineyard.
1974- The Martha’s Vineyard Commission is created.
1978- The Chilmark Road Race starts running.
1979 – The Martha’s Vineyard Camp Ground turns 100 and is put on the National Register of Historic Places.
1979 – The first “Possible Dreams” auction is held benefiting Martha’s Vineyard Community Services.
1979- The Hot Tin Roof opens.
1980 – The island population is 8,878.  Up 45% since 1970 census.
1980 – Oak Bluffs celebrates centennial.
1982 – Farmers’ market is established in West Tisbury.
1982 – Inaugural season of the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Hatchery in Vineyard Haven.
1983 – Six Island conservation organizations join forces to build the Mary P. Wakeman Center at Lambert’s Cove.
1984 – Five hundred buildings in downtown Edgartown are encompassed by the historic district.
1984 – Coastal cruise ship, the Pilgrim Belle wrecks on Sow and Pigs reef off of Cuttyhunk.
1985 – Dukes County Cable TV begins offering first cable service on Island.
1986 – Flying Horses, the nation’s oldest operating platform carousel, is made a national landmark.
1986 – Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank is established to buy open land with funds raised through real estate tax.
1987 – Wampanoag tribe of Gay Head is granted federal recognition.
1987 – Naushon, the last Island steamer, is retired.
1988 – State takes South Beach after developers buy it for private use.
1989 – The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head resumes the tradition of Cranberry Day.
1990 – Island population is 11,541.
1991 – Hurricane Bob, the first hurricane to hit the island since 1954, causes millions of dollars of     damage.
1992 – Edgartown celebrates 350th anniversary, and West Tisbury marks its 100th year.
1992 – The cruise ship Queen Elizabeth 2, carrying 1800 passengers, runs over rock off of Cuttyhunk.
1993 – The Vineyard’s coastal sandplains are named one of the world’s last great places by the Nature        Conservancy, which establishes an office here.
1993 – President Clinton and his family visit Island for 10-day vacation, for first time as the First Family.
1994 – Chilmark celebrates its 300th anniversary.
1995 – First Agricultural Fair is held at new Ag Hall on Panhandle Road.
1995 – A state purchase adds over 800 acres to the state forest.
1996 – Practice bombing of Noman’s  Land stops and island becomes a full-time wildlife sanctuary.
1996 –The Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center is dedicated in Tisbury.
1996 – The Linden tree, a landmark on Main St. Vineyard Haven, is cut down.
1997- The Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust acquires the Grange Hall.
1998 – The ferry Islander breaks Nobska’s previous record as the longest-serving vessel in Island history.
1998 – Gay Head changes name to Aquinnah, the Wampanoag word for “land beneath the hill”.
1999 – In July 1999, John Kennedy Jr. along with his wife and sister in law, died when the small plane he     was piloting crashed into the ocean south of Aquinnah.
2000 – The affordable housing movement first organizes on the Island
2000- The Island population is 14,987
2001- Fire destroys the historic Corbin-Norton House on Ocean Park.
2001- The Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School celebrates its first graduating class.
2002- The Vineyard Golf Club opens.
2002- The Martha’s Vineyard  Preservation Trust acquires Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs.
2003- Volunteers construct Kingdom Hall in West Tisbury.
2004- The vintage 1912 Capawock Theater in Vineyard Haven closes for renovations
2005- Della Hardman Day begins.
2006- The Capawock Theater in Vineyard Haven reopens after a two year hiatus.
2007 – The large ferry Island Home begins service to Martha’s Vineyard, and the Islander is retired after          57 years of service.
2007 -Chappaquiddick is truly an island.  A major ocean storm causes a breach in Norton Point Beach.
2008- Great white shark is spotted in Vineyard Sound.
2008- Alley’s General Store celebrates 100 years.
2009 – President Obama and his family visit Island for vacation for first time as First family.
2009- The Vineyard Cup between Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket is cancelled- twice.  First, due to the number of players out with the flu and then due to lack of funds.
2010- The Island population is 16,535.
2010- Fire destroys the Menemsha Coast Guard Boathouse.
2010 – After almost a decade in review, Department of the Interior approves the Cape Wind renewable energy project of a 130-turbine offshore wind farm in Nantucket Sound.
2010 – Martha’s Vineyard Hospital’s new building is finished and open.
2011 – Colonial Inn celebrates 100th birthday, undergoes renovations and re-opens as the Vineyard Square Hotel & Suites.

Special thanks to the Vineyard Gazette for many of the dates provided herein which were included in the July 30, 1999 special edition.

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