A real estate tale


To the Editor:

On September 6, 2013, the 100-acre tract in West Tisbury known as the Ancient Lots in the Island Heights Subdivision, sold to The Nature Conservancy for $881,866. The sale was the culmination of 13 years of research, work, and perseverance by the sellers, Dreamcatcher Realty Trust, Kyle Carson, and the law offices of Reynolds, Rappaport, Kaplan & Hackney, LLC, and me to clear the title to hundreds of small lots that were sold or given away between 1902 and 1921.

Toward the end of the 19th Century, the Flint Remedy Co. of New Bedford acquired the approximate 100 acres of land and divided it into 2,345 lots of 25 feet X 75 feet. Some of the lots were sold outright, but about 500 were packaged by the Flint Remedy Co. to be given away with purchases of their product — Dr. Flint’s Quaker Bitters. These became known as the Medicine Lots. Most of these deed recipients were from Bristol, Massachusetts, and it appears that none of the lots were ever used (or taxed prior to the 1970s). In the 1970s, several groups began to research and attempt to obtain ownership of the acreage, but the deeds to the Medicine Lots remained unclear.

In 2000, I, the principal broker of Martha’s Vineyard Buyers Agents, was compelled by a newspaper ad reading “Land for Sale with Title Problems.” I was drawn by the interesting history and complexity of the parcels and contacted a client who agreed to purchase the land. I then proceeded to pursue the elusive titles.

One of the biggest challenges in the process, I think, was that many parcels were conveyed twice or recorded incorrectly. And, “The huge, unwieldy size of the several rolled up paper sheets constituting the subdivision plan were such that to this day the plan remains merely rolled up in the Registry of Deeds vault…. The development consisted of dozens of rectangular blocks of tiny numbered lots intersected by numerous streets….”

It was a process of research all over New England, court battles (one involving a possible murder), and filings (abandoned tent platforms), and another difficult challenge, a surveyor error. In 1958 and again in 1970, the Martha’s Vineyard Airport acquired a number of the lots in a “taking,” in which an error placed 20 percent of the Island Heights subdivision on top of Charles Neck Way.

Persistence paid off, and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) was able to purchase the 100 acres by quitclaim deed. The TNC website describes their mission as, “The mission of The Nature Conservancy is to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends.”

Martha’s Vineyard Buyer Agents are Real Estate specialists committed to real estate services for buyers, exclusively, in acquiring property on the Island of Martha’s Vineyard, backed by Emma Kennedy’s and my 30+ years of real estate experience.

Fred Roven