Amer­i­can Gothic

Take a trip to this lit­tle town, straight from a sto­ry­book fan­tasy.

Victorian Homes - - Contents - BY RE­BEKAH WAHLBERG

Take a trip to this quaint Martha Vine­yard’s town, straight from sto­ry­book fan­tasy.

The island is home to a vi­brant network of towns and dis­tinct at­trac­tions—not the least among them is the com­mu­nity of Wes­leyan Grove in Oak Bluffs. Renowned for its iconic neigh­bor­hood of Car­pen­ter Gothic-style wooden cot­tages, the Camp­ground, as it is also known, has grown from a small acreage host­ing Methodist sum­mer re­vivals to an ac­tive network of sum­mer va­ca­tion­ers and full-time res­i­dents.

Steeped in rich Amer­i­can his­tory, the island of Martha’s Vine­yard off the coast of Massachusetts has been a sum­mer va­ca­tion des­ti­na­tion and sym­bol of rest and rejuvenation for more than 150 years.

Vis­it­ing the Camp­ground is like tak­ing a trip back in time 150 years, to a quainter, qui­eter time.

SUM­MER RE­VIVALS

Some of the ear­li­est vis­i­tors to Oak Bluffs were Methodists, who held an­nual sum­mer re­vivals in the grove that would even­tu­ally be­come the town. What started as a sim­ple camp­ground of pitched com­mu­nal tents in 1835 grew in pop­u­lar­ity, un­til fam­i­lies be­gan build­ing their own wooden cot­tages in the 1860s and ‘70s for when they re­turned ev­ery sum­mer for the re­vival.

Known as Wes­leyan Grove, the grounds form the crux of the Oak Bluffs com­mu­nity and are now home to more than 300 cot­tages with the Taber­na­cle as its phys­i­cal and spir­i­tual cen­ter. The Taber­na­cle, which started as a hum­ble preacher’s stand in the early 19th cen­tury, ex­panded into an open-air struc­ture of wrought iron and stained glass in 1879. It be­came a his­tor­i­cal point of in­ter­est when Wes­leyan Grove was placed on the Na­tional Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places in 1978, and be­came a na­tional his­tor­i­cal land­mark in 2005. A fundrais­ing project to re­store the Taber­na­cle it­self started in 1999, and was placed on the “Save Amer­ica’s Trea­sures” list in 2000.

To­day, Wes­leyan Grove goes by other names: col­lo­qui­ally, “The Camp­ground,” though it also is rep­re­sented by the Martha’s Vine­yard Camp Meet­ing As­so­ci­a­tion (MVCMA). While MVCMA started as a Methodist as­so­ci­a­tion in 1860 to fa­cil­i­tate the sum­mer re­vivals, it has since evolved into a multi-de­nom­i­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion that is ded­i­cated to preserving the spirit of the re­vivals for the spir­i­tual and phys­i­cal rejuvenation of all who visit.

Oak Bluffs, a small town on Martha’s Vine­yard in Massachusetts, was the only town on the island de­signed with tourism specif­i­cally in mind. Orig­i­nally in­cor­po­rated as Cot­tage City in 1880, Oak Bluffs is one of the ear­li­est planned res­i­den­tial communities in the United States.

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