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Martha’s Vineyard

Fun facts about the town of Martha’s Vineyard…

Martha's Vineyard
  • The Wampanoag Indians, who originally inhabited the island, referred to Martha’s Vineyard as Noepe, or “land amid the streams.”
  • According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Martha’s Vineyard’s population is 16,535 year-round residents. During the summer, the population often swells to more than 100,000.
  • At approximately 90 square miles, the island is the 58th largest in the United States.
  • Martha’s Vineyard is about seven miles south of Falmouth, (at Edgartown Light), 24.4 nautical miles west of Nantucket, and 53 miles (at Oak Bluffs) to the east of Block Island, Rhode Island.
  • British explorer Bartholomew Gosnold discovered the island in 1602 and named it after his daughter, Martha—and the island’s dense vegetation.
  • Thomas Mayhew (1593-1682) purchased the island in 1641 and settled there with family within a few years. The island was considered part of New York until 1692, when it was ceded to Massachusetts. Mayhew was born in the town of Tisbury, England.
  • When Mayhew arrived, about 3,000 native Wampanoags were already living on the island.
  • On July 4, 1901, Memorial Park in Edgartown was dedicated to honor the 70 soldiers from Martha’s Vineyard who died during The Civil War (1861-1865).
  • A few years after completing the first solo circumnavigation of the Earth, explorer Joshua Slocum of West Tisbury sailed from the Vineyard in 1909 and was never seen again.
  • One fatality was recorded on the Vineyard during The Great New England Hurricane of 1938. Josephine Clarke, a Jamaican cook working for the Thielen family, drowned while attempting to escape rising waves imperiling the family’s summer home in Chilmark. Benedict Thielen attempted to rescue her, to no avail.
  • On September 14, 1944, another storm, The Great Atlantic Hurricane, devastated the Vineyard and several Cape towns. The storm caused $100 million in damage in the region and 390 people died, including 12 crew aboard the Vineyard Sound Lightship. Moored at the entrance of Vineyard Sound and Buzzards Bay, the vessel, which served as a lighthouse-on-a-ship and at the time was looking out for German submarines, succumbed to strong winds and waves, and sank.
  • An April 2007 storm breached the long, thin barrier beach that connected Martha’s Vineyard to Chappaquiddick Island. Today, the islands are separated by a channel.
  • Former “Saturday Night Live” actor and comedian John Belushi is buried in Abel’s Hill Cemetery in Chilmark. Belushi died on March 5, 1982.
  • JFK’s son, John F. Kennedy, Jr., his wife, Carolyn Bessette, and her sister, Lauren Bessette, were killed in a plane crash off the coast of the Vineyard in July of 1999.
  • Founded in 1981 at The Christ United Methodist Church, The Island Food Pantry has been helping needy locals for nearly 30 years; in 2012-2013 alone, the pantry aided 503 families, averaging 95 visits per week.
  • The Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society hosts its 153rd fair in August. The annual event features dog and livestock shows, a woodsmen competition, shucking and fiddle-playing contests, and a skillet toss.
  • The 32nd annual Christmas in Edgartown celebration was held in December 2013; festivities included a chowder contest, a live nativity, and many decorations.
  • Rabbit hunting season on the island is November 15 through February 28, while crows can be hunted through April 10.
  • Steven Spielberg filmed Jaws on the island in 1974. The film starred Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Scheider, and the legendary Robert Shaw as Captain Quint.
  • The Vineyard is the largest island on the East Coast that is not connected to a mainland by a bridge or tunnel.
  • The Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament, hosted by the Boston Big Game Fishing Club, was the largest event of its kind in the United States from 2005 to 2008. In 2013, Captain Frank Greiner, Jr., aboard the Magellan, won first prize by reeling in two massive Porbeagles: a 429-pounder and a 313-pounder.
  • Sharky’s Cantina in Oak Bluffs and Edgartown offers food, t-shirts, and unique drinks like the Sharkarita, with tequila, triple sec, orange juice, and sour mix. Another specialty—The Obamarita—is a mandarin-pineapple mix.
  • In 2013, the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks baseball team finished in first place and won the league championship. The team plays in the 10-team Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL), which was established in 2011.
  • The history of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum in Edgartown dates back to 1922, when it was founded as the Dukes County Historical Society; in 1996, that name was changed to the Martha’s Vineyard Historical Society, and in 2006, its current name was adopted.
  • Today, the museum is open to visitors year-round; it publishes a historical journal, The Dukes County Intelligencer; and it serves as steward of three of the Vineyard’s lighthouses.
  • The museum currently exhibits “Enchanted Isle: The Story of Martha’s Vineyard,” which tells the island’s history through photographs, books, paintings, and documents; beginning in February, a new exhibit examines ‘The Art of Advertising,’ and features political posters, signs, and souvenirs.
  • Captain Robert Douglas founded The Black Dog restaurant in Vineyard Haven in 1971, one year after Led Zeppelin released its fourth album, featuring the classic track, “Black Dog”; both are considered classics.
  • On The Black Dog’s menu in Vineyard Haven, patrons can order comfort foods such as an egg mcdog or rasputin’s revenge—pancakes served with chocolate chips and strawberries. The company has opened numerous restaurants on the Cape and Islands over the years and has also established a very successful retail brand.
  • Island restaurants with French names today include Détente Restaurant, l’etoile, and Soigne in Edgartown; Le Grenier, La Cave du Grenier, and Mon Amour in Vineyard Haven; and Coop de Ville in Oak Bluffs.
  • Founded in 2004, Island Alpaca Company is an Oak Bluffs farm that breeds, boards, sells, and educates the public about… alpacas. What is an alpaca, one might ask? Well, it is an animal in the camelid family, it is slightly smaller than a llama, and it is most often bred for its wool, from which clothes and blankets are made. As of January, alpacas Angelica, Angelito, Anika, Ariana, and Apollo were for sale.
  • Opened in July of 2011, Martha’s Vineyard Chowder Company sells more than 2,000 gallons of its clam chowder per year; the recipe does not include butter, oil, flour, or gluten.
  • Among many yoga instructors on the Vineyard, Robert Sidoti offers Broga yoga—it’s for men—in Vineyard Haven.
  • Deep Bottom Cove is one of the fingers of Tisbury Great Pond, on the south side of the island. It is also the name of a song by The Lemonheads.
  • Martha’s Vineyard’s high-school football team defeated Nantucket, 14 to 0, in the ‘Island Cup’ contest in November 2013. The Vineyarders have won 10 straight in the annual, inter-island game.
  • Operated seasonally, Hyline High Speed Ferry offers inter-island transport to Nantucket for $36 (one way) and $72 (return).
Martha's Vineyard

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