From the May 9, 1952 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:
Lagoon Pond at Vineyard Haven was originally called Homes Hole Harbor – the ancient name for the town and harbor – because it was long open to salt water and provided deep anchorage. But it was also known as a pond, and there are 18th century deeds that refer to it as Wakataqua Pond. Communication between the village of Holmes Hole at the head of present-day Vineyard Haven harbor and the eastern shore – known as Eastville – was entirely by water until 1871, when the bridge of the lagoon has been completed. The incentive for building the bridge was the rise of a resort, developed around the campground, whose historic landing was at Eastville.
The campground and fledgling resort was in Edgartown Township, but thanks to the lagoon bridge and new beach road, Vineyard Haven was able to take advantage of all the benefits of its geographic proximity.
Today the Lagoon is a magnificent body of water and an important shellfish farming site.
Docks are interesting in the same way that bridges are interesting, but often more so. It is true that no dock has the majesty of the George Washington Bridge, for example, but on the other hand this majestic bridge lacks the solid comfort of an old, tide-beaten dock with a caplog and dolphins on which man can sit or fish. or indulge in its philosophy. A dock can suggest sea navigation without effort or time requirement. There’s a good chance there will be choppy, rough water below – around the vineyard at least – as the usual span of bridges crosses relatively tame streams.
The date of Vineyard’s first dock is lost to history. Something is known, however, of various famous docks of modern times.
In July 1867, the first wharf was completed at what is now Oak Bluffs, and Whitewater, as the saying goes. Until that time, it had not been considered practical to build a wharf there, as most vintners believed that winter storms would bring systematic destruction. The advantage of having a dock at Oak Bluffs, however – rather than continuing to use landings at Eastville in protecting the harbor of Vineyard Haven – was so great that the Oak Bluffs Land & Wharf Co. went from before.
The new quay stood admirably, and from then on the course of history was changed. Around 1872, the Vineyard Grove Co., engaged in furthering the interests of Vineyard Highlands and East Chop, brought about the construction of Highland Wharf on the present site of the East Chop Beach Club at a cost of $15,000. There had been a great wharf boom during this period, largely due to the growth of Oak Bluffs. A new wharf was built at Eastville by the firm of Luce & Littlefield in 1866, and a road was opened from here to the camp meeting. This same structure was later rebuilt and named New York Wharf. It worked heroically in the annals of Vineyard as it was the stopover for the New York Yacht Club fleet and the steamships that shuttled between Portland and New York. In 1872, the Vineyard Grove Co., which had acquired this wharf, appraised it at $4,000.
The wharf at Oak Bluffs was burnt down when the grand Sea View Hotel was destroyed by fire in 1892, but it has been rebuilt and extended. The final expansion to the present proportions of a major river terminal took place in 1929.
A wharf at Gay Head was built in the 1980s, largely for the excursion steamers that plowed this headland from Oak Bluffs and the Cape. Ox carts took visitors from the landing stage to the top of the cliffs. It was the improvement of the roads and the arrival of automobiles that made the excursions – and after the excursions ended, the wharf slowly fell into disrepair.
The ruin was also the fate of the West Chop wharf, part of the West Chop resort community development, built for the convenience of Boston weekenders, largely, who therefore did not have to travel to Vineyard Haven to catch the boat. In the days of the automobile, that trip to and from Vineyard Haven had to become nothing at all, when an extra steamboat stop was an inconvenient feature.
What is now Edgartown Town Wharf was long owned by the late whaling magnate Dr. Daniel Fisher, who used it not only to land oil – his glass-roofed oil refining sheds were located nearby – but also to ship wheat. on the island and ground into flour by water mills at West Tisbury and Chilmark.
This wharf was sold to the Steamboat Company in 1889, and in modern times by the Steamboat Company to the city.
The current Edgartown Yacht Club wharf at the foot of Main Street was perhaps the oldest wharf on the island, just as the street was one of the oldest. It was first associated with the caskets, then became Osborn’s Wharf and continued to do so during a period when Samuel Osborn Jr. was the largest individual owner of whaling property in the United States. Edgartown, by the way, had five wharves in 1859.
Compiled by Hilary Wallcox