West Tisbury

West Tisbury

Reprinted from the 2004 Visitors Guide courtesy of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce. www.mvy.com

West Tisbury with its white church, general store, post office, old mill, farms, and ponds has all the characteristics people associate with a typical New England Village.

It was the mill site that originally attracted settlers, because there was no stream in Edgartown with enough strength to run a water wheel. The gristmill gave way in 1847 to the manufacture of satinet, a heavy fabric for whales men’s jackets made from Island wool.

The Congregational Church on State road is always open to visitors. Solid and settled as it now looks, even this structure did not escape the Islanders’ penchant for moving buildings around. The original churchyard, where the first settlers of the town are buried, is about a quarter of a mile down the road. Near the church is the West Tisbury town hall.

Several old houses here started out as inns, back when a trip from the down Island ports to Aquinnah or Chilmark was a long haul over sandy roads. Daniel Webster stayed at the house next to the store building. Across the little pond from the old inn is the site of a house built by Mile’s Standish’s son in 1668.

The largest houses in town were owned by captains, and some of the finest are still occupied by their descendants. Several captains’ houses can be found on Music Street, given its name after a number of its families purchased pianos with new whaling money. The Lambert’s Cove settlement has its share of fine homes and a charming white church. The Cove was once a place of anchorage for the town of West Tisbury. The area housed clay works, salt works and extensive trap fishing operations. All this has vanished. Even the road to the harbor is gone. A Woodland path leads to the beach, which is now set aside for year round and summer residents of West Tisbury.

Other points of interest are Cedar Tree Neck Nature Preserve and the Christiantown Memorial. Cedar Tree Neck is matchless piece of unspoiled woods, with a freshwater pond and brooks, bounded by North Shore Beach. Picnics, fishing, and bathing are not permitted, but there are marked trails for those who enjoy the opportunity to watch birds, follow woodland paths, and walk along its quiet shores.

The Memorial is located off Christiantown Road. Here one may see a tiny chapel, a pulpit rock where services were held for the Wampanog in the 17th century, the rough small burial stones of these first converts, and nearby wildflower garden.

West Tisbury is the home of the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society, sponsors of the annual Livestock Show and Agricultural Fair. The Fair, held each August on the grounds of the Agricultural Hall on Panhandle Road, is the highlight of a Martha’s Vineyard summer, drawing visitors back year after year.