Development at Makonikey Heights on Marthas Vineyard

Designed by H. T. Whitman Civil Engineer / Surveys by Edm. Grover and G. L. Walker, PLAN OF A SECTION OF SEA SHORE LOTS AT MAKONIKEY HEIGHTS MARTHAS VINEYARD MASS. Property of Marthas Vineyard Co. Boston: Marthas Vineyard Co., [ca. 1891].
Lithograph, 16”h x 22 7/8”w at neat line plus margins, uncolored. Mounted on early linen. Some creasing, wrinkling, small loss in left margin, and a few annotations in pencil, but very good.

A rare, nicely executed plan designed to attract investment in an 1890s development in the Makonikey area of Marthas Vineyard, lying between Tisbury and Vineyard Haven on heights overlooking Vineyard Sound.

The development at Makonikey was funded by a group of mainland businessmen with no particular connection to the island, among them E. H. Capen, President of Tufts. They announced the project in June 1891, around which time they probably published this plan. It depicts a proposed development roughly ¾ mile by ½ mile at its greatest extent, the whole divided into some 306 roughly 1/3-acre parcels. The frontage on Vineyard Sound was to be occupied by a mix of private dwellings and a beach, with a penciled note locating a hotel in the southwest, at the corner of Winnecoette and Gay Head Avenues. An inset map at lower right shows Makonikey Heights’ location on the island and transportation links via the Old Colony Railroad and ferries leaving from Mattapoiset and Woods Hole.

The hotel was the ill-fated Makonikey Inn, which was to be the centerpiece of the development.

“The fancy new three-story hotel, funded by a syndicate of off-Island capitalists, featured 20 rooms, four dining salons, and a laundry. A bathhouse offered guests a choice of fresh or salt-water bathing in porcelain tubs, in addition to an expansive beach on the shore below. It was the first hotel on the Island with an electrical generator, and each room was equipped with its own electric light. Four or five cottages were built on a labyrinth of newly graded roads, and lots for another 200 were put up for sale. A 200-foot wharf met guests debarking steamboats from Woods Hole and West Chop, and a survey was even drawn up for a new road to connect Makonikey directly to West Chop.” (Baer)

Unfortunately the planned development and the Inn’s opening coincided with the Panic of 1893. When the New Bedford workers who had landscaped the grounds went unpaid by the contractor who had hired then, the workers stormed the Inn and threatened to burn it down. Though the crisis was resolved without bloodshed, guests had already fled and the Inn closed. It may have reopened briefly the following year, but was sold at auction in 1897. Briefly used by the YMCA as a Summer camp in 1913-1919, it was never again occupied and soon went to ruin. The surrounding development likewise was never fully realized, though several of the street names on the plan can still be seen on modern maps.

OCLC 317766117 and 1083113286, giving impressions at the Boston Public Library and Yale (as of April 2020). Some background from Chris Baer, “This Was Then: The Makonkey Inn,” accessed at on in April 2020 and Henry Bettle Hough, Martha’s Vineyard, Summer Resort, 1835-1935, pp. 232-233.