MV Museum will sell West Tisbury land to Ag Society, Polly Hill

A view of the open field the Martha's Vineyard Museum will sell to the abutting Agricultural Society and Polly Hill Arboretum.
Photo by Ralph Stewart

A view of the open field the Martha's Vineyard Museum will sell to the abutting Agricultural Society and Polly Hill Arboretum.

A three-way agreement under which the Martha’s Vineyard Museum will sell land it owns in West Tisbury to the Polly Hill Arboretum and the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society is to be converted to a signed agreement by the end of this week.

“We are in the process of trying to finalize a purchase and sale agreement,” David Nathans, museum executive director, said in a telephone call Tuesday. “Everything looks very positive.”

The land is a 9.7-acre piece of property off State Road, sandwiched between the Ag Society fairgrounds and the arboretum. In 2002, the museum, then the Martha’s Vineyard Historical Society, announced plans to build a new campus on the property and set a fundraising target of $25 million.

Buffeted by the sagging economy, facing a significant fundraising hurdle, and with a new director at the helm, the museum changed course and set its sights on the former Marine Hospital property in Vineyard Haven. A closing is expected on that sale in August, Mr. Nathans said.

The land deal benefits all three organizations and the public.

The museum will receive $1 million, essentially what it paid for the property, and the sale will benefit the museum’s two partners in the 2002 joint land deal that originally encompassed 25 acres. The museum will no longer own land that it no longer has a use for and will be able to direct the million dollars to its future move.

The Ag Society will have room to expand on its northern border. Polly Hill will gain some extra room on its southern border. And the public will continue to have an agricultural view from the road.

Tim Boland, Polly Hill executive director, said the arboretum would receive a small piece of the land that would serve as a buffer. “The Agricultural Society should get a lot of credit for making this happen,” Mr. Boland said. “They drew us in as neighbors.”

“Dale McClure, our president, negotiated the purchase with the help of Tim Boland and others, including the Trustees of the MVAS and the three vicepresidents,” board member Jim Athearn said in an email to The Times. “Though it was a big reach for us, financially, it was felt that an opportunity to buy adjoining land is a once-in-a-lifetime chance and should be taken. We have no particular ambitions for the land at this timebut it seems obvious from our dream list of projects, such as an agricultural museum and demonstration farm plots, that someday we will be glad we have the space.”