Reprinted from the 2004 Visitors Guide courtesy
of the Martha's Vineyard Chamber of Commerce. www.mvy.com
Excellent shops, fine restaurants, and a beautiful harbor are
only a few of the attractions that make Vineyard Haven so special
to tourists and residents alike.
The town that incorporates Vineyard Haven is called Tisbury,
after a parish in England near the birthplace of the Island's
first governor. Thomas Mayhew, English settlement of the area
dates from the mid 1600s, when Mayhew purchased the settlement
right from the Crown.
Owen Park, off Main Street (just beyond the shopping district),
is named for gramophone innovator William Barry Owen whose wife
donated the parcel for public use. The town beach here is a fine
place to watch the harbor. Ferries shuttle in and out, providing
the Island's year-round connection to the mainland.
On the opposite side of Main Street from Owen Park is the Old
Schoolhouse Museum. Erected in 1828, this building has served
many uses. It was once a carpentry shop, a school and later served
as the Congregational Church. In front of the museum stands the
tall white Liberty Pole, commemorating the daring of three young
women who inserted gun powder in the base of the town's liberty
pole in 1778 and blew it up to keep it from being used a spar
by a British warship.
When the Congregationalists outgrew their little church in 1844,
they built a neo-classic building on Spring Street that later
became the Unitarian Church and eventually the town hall. Vineyard
Haven's municipal building is one of the Island's handsomest
architectural legacies of whaling days. The Vineyard Playhouse
building on Church Street was built in 1833 as a Methodist meeting
house. Today it houses the Island's only year-round professional
When ships were powered by wind and canvas, Vineyard Haven was
one of New England's busiest ports. Most of the coastwise shipping
traveled through Vineyard Sound (13,814 vessels were counted
in 1845). Holmes Hole, as this harbor community was called, provided
a convenient anchorage. Here a ship and its crew could lay over
comfortably to wait out bad weather, pick up provisions, or take
on an experienced local pilot who could negotiate the rips and
shoals that were the special perils of this sea route.
In addition to Owen Park, the town maintains War Veterans' Memorial
Park off Causeway Road. The park included playground equipment
and playing fields used by local ball teams.
There are many scenic places around the town; in addition to
Main Street and the harbor, the Tashmoo Lake overlook on State
road, the nearby Tisbury Water Works, West Chop Lighthouse, and
the area around the drawbridge on Beach Road are favorite spots