Cottage City Massachusetts, 1890

Cottage City embraces the northeastern extremity of island of Martha's Vineyard, Dukes County; and is mainly a place of summer residence, having only the business relating to such occupancy. It has, however, a constant population of 709, of whom 203 are voters. There are now about 1,200 dwellings, all of which are inhabited during the warm season.

The town has the ocean on the north and east, Edgartown on the south, and Tisbury on the west and northwest. It is separated from the latter town by Vineyard Haven Harbor and by Lagoon Pond, the latter partially divided from the harbor by a broad sandbar. The coast is formed by steep sand-bluffs, with sandy beaches at their bases. The area, aside from highways and water surfaces, and some sandy marsh, is 1,965 acres. About one third of this is largely occupied by scrub oaks, with trees of larger growth in the vicinity of the camp-grounds and some of the older residences.

[scenes of Cottage City]

The soil is sandy, but yields fairly under cultivation, especially in small fruits. There are in the town 25 farms, whose dairy product in 1885 was $8,358; vegetable, $2,829; greenhouse, $1,963; wood, 51,135; eggs, etc., $2,031; the aggregate reaching $23,391. There is some shore fishing, but no manufacturing worth mention.

The villages are Camp Ground, Eastville, Lagoon Heights, Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Heights. The latter commence at East Chops, the northeast point, and extend south on the shore to Lake Anthony, where Oak Bluffs commence , extending southward to Farm Pond. The last body of water covers about 25 acres. The southeastern part of the town is occupied by Sengecontacket Pond, of 650 acres, which communicates with the sea through a break in the long sand-bar that forms its eastern shore. Eastville is on Vineyard Haven Harbor, on the west side of the town. Here are the principal landing-places of the New York and Portland steamers.

The Baptist camp-ground and tabernacle is on Vineyard Highlands, overlooking its trees and Lake Anthony. Southward, at Vineyard Grove, is the Methodist camp-ground., with its great iron tabernacle, surrounded by trees and grassy lawns; these in turn encompassed by a concreted walk and a road, along which runs a street railway connecting with various points in the town. The largest village is Oak Bluffs, where are a steamer wharf, the post-office, churches, stores, and many residences. Amid lawns, gardens and shrubbery, undivided by fences, are the cottages, mostly showing the characteristics of the Queen Anne style in their architecture, and some of them very costly. The colors of the buildings here are uniformly bright, and, from the water approach, the view of the place, with its angular roofs, towers and minarets, elevated on the bluff against the western sky, give an appearance of oriental splendor and magnificence unequalled elsewhere in America.

The beach, on the water-front of Oak Bluffs, is regarded as one of the finest possible for bathing purposes. Several hundred bathing-houses, in double rows, with a passage between, stand at the foot of the bluffs; and at an elevated point not far away is the pavilion, a wide, airy, many-storied structure, which affords a fine chance to watch the bathers.

Aside from the hotels, the churches are of course the most conspicuous. Beside the tabernacles in their camp-grounds, the Methodists and the Baptists have each a church of good size and form; there are also the Trinity Episcopal Church, Roman Catholic church, and a union church. The Martha's Vineyard Summer Institute, a school of general science, has a spacious building.

There are numerous social organizations and clubs, some of which have elegant houses. The finest of these is that of the Oak Bluffs Club. The Martha's Vineyard Club devotes its influence largely to increasing the attractions and forwarding the interests of the town. Yachts frequent the waters, and wheelmen are delighted with the fine roads. Grassy parks are numerous in the village precincts; and at Oak Bluffs a fine band-stand is often occupied by excellent musicians.

This town is reached by regular lines of steamers, chiefly from Woods Holl or New Bedford, where connection is made with the Old Colony Railroad. The town, also, has its railroad, a narrow gauge, connecting Oak Bluffs Wharf with Edgartown and Katama. There is a finely equipped fire department, and water-works.

The public schools are graded, and well-housed in three buildings valued at about $2,500. There is a public library of upwards of 1,000 volumes. The "Martha's Vineyard Herald " is a valuable local journal, having weekly issues throughout the year. The valuation of Cottage City in 1888 was $1,449,475; and the tax-rate was $15.70 on $1,000.

This town has grown from a mere camp-meeting ground to its present form and proportions. The first meeting was held in August, 1835, in the present Wesleyan Grove. The attendance annually increased, until in 1858 there were 12,000 in attendance on the meetings. In 1860 a new organization was formed under the name of "Martha's Vineyard Camp-Meeting Association," which was incorporated in 1868. In 1879 the Methodist tabernacle was built, having seats for 4,000 persons. There is, beside, the Baptist tabernacle and camp-ground; also a tent-ground outside the village precincts. The Baptist Vineyard Association was incorporated in 1876. Great sums of money have been expended by individuals and corporations in improving the place; and it has now been for several years not only a religious, but a popular pleasure resort.

This place was a part of the town of Edgartown; and, after, unsuccessful efforts in the General Court for several years, an act of incorporation was passed on February 17, 1880, by which it was separated and made the town of Cottage City, a name suggested by the appearance of the buildings and their contiguous position.

Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890, pp. 253-256

Dukes county, Gazetteer 1890