Vineyard Haven in the 19th century

Wm. H. Sturtevant del. / J.H. Bufford’s Lith., VIEW OF THE VILLAGE OF HOLMES’ HOLE, MARTHAS VINEYARD, MASS. 1856. 313 Washington St. Boston, 1856.
Lithograph, 17”h x 28”w plus title and generous margins

A lovely lithographic view Vineyard Haven on Martha’s Vineyard, now the main port of entry to the island and much changed in the past 160 years.

Vineyard Haven, known until 1871 as Holmes’ Hole, was for many years a fishing and shipbuilding village as well as a safe harbor for the innumerable vessels traversing the coast between New York and Boston.   The long transition to modernity began in the mid-19th century, when steamship ferry service began from the mainland, regular Methodist camp meetings were held there, and the island was discovered as a vacation destination. These forces all drove much development in the village, across the harbor in Oak Bluffs, and elsewhere on the island.

This view depicts the village in 1856, as seen by the artist from the sandspit to the east that still separates the harbor from Lagoon Pond. One gains the impression of a tidy village, prosperous but hardly ostentatious, populated by well-kept homes and a number of fine churches. The arrival of a steam ferry, a couple galloping along the beach in the foreground, and a large group waiting at the wharf across the harbor all lend a certain amount of narrative interest.

The village today retains a great deal of charm—especially off season—but it is much changed from 1856. The Great Fire of 1883 destroyed some 72 buildings in a 40-acre area around Main Street; the Methodist Church, visible on a high point at the center of the view, burned in 1922; and the ferries and yachts today tend to be much larger.

Reps, Views and Viewmakers of Urban America, #1654.


Gently toned, minor repairs at edges