Ben Moore gave his heart to the Vineyard as a child, and loved it ever after. He designed and built not only furniture, private homes, and public buildings, but also strong families, warm friendships, and Island institutions. His gentleness and modesty only partially masked a strong sense of honesty, moral principles, and justice. He sang all the time, and only stopped the day before he died, at home, on Thursday evening, May 10, 2018, after a seven-year struggle with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease; he was 82.
Ben’s roots went deep on the Vineyard. His great-grandfather, William H. Hart of New Britain, Conn., bought the land of Harthaven and all the way to Edgartown in 1911, later selling the part now known as State Beach to the state for one dollar. Generations of Harts, Peases, and Moores followed, most with large families who had fun together, loved music, boats, and building houses, and greatly enjoyed long Vineyard summers.
Despite these family connections to Harthaven, Ben was always an up-Islander by style and choice, and there was never a question about where he and Paddy would live when they bought the old Alley farmhouse behind the Up-Island Garage in August 1975 ”to try it for a year.” They moved next door to Ben’s sister, Gay Phillipps Nelson, with six hockey-playing children, two cats, 10 kittens, and a black Lab, and have continued to rejoice in being part of the Island community for the next 43 years.
Believing deeply in public service — giving back to the community even more than you receive — Ben always participated quietly in the Island community. The West Tisbury selectmen appointed him as their representative to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission in 1976, where he served for 10 sometimes tempestuous years. His fairness and calm strength helped smooth troubled waters when Edgartown and Oak Bluffs voted to leave (and later return to) the MVC, and when Islanders were deeply and loudly divided over whether to build a second ferry slip for the Steamship Authority in Vineyard Haven.
As an architect and planner, his thoughtful and low-key designs reflect the Island’s best self. Working with town appointees to numerous building committees, Ben’s designs helped the West Tisbury Free Public Library grow from its original old building on Music Street (1984) to the first new library behind the Howes House in 1987-89, to plans for a second library addition in 1994. He developed studies for Town Hall renovations in 1998 and 2000, encouraging the town to preserve its beautiful old 19th century building while moving into 21st century efficiency. In 1994, he helped the M.V. Agricultural Society with drawings to enable the Barn Busters to move a New Hampshire barn to a new home on the Panhandle in West Tisbury, and then remodeled the old Grange into its new career with the M.V. Preservation Trust. Working with the trust in 1993 and 1998, he remodeled Alley’s General Store, and created Back Alleys and the little Farm Market — now favorite stops for both summer and year-round Vineyarders. For 20 years, as a member of the West Tisbury Historic District Commission, he was an ardent supporter of both historic preservation and well-designed modern adaptations. Other public work included remodeling the Chilmark Town Hall, the Tisbury Police Station, and the Oak Bluffs bandstand.
Ben’s work was wide-ranging. Working with the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury, he designed a church renovation and Parish House addition, while preserving this precious landmark for years to come. Working with the Farm Neck Golf Club, of which he was a devoted charter member, he designed several club buildings, as well as the sun-filled addition to the Cafe. He designed the Island Children’s School, and the Yard’s dance stage and studio.
Throughout Ben’s work for the towns, and for the 80-plus private homes he designed over the past 40 years, he passionately encouraged the use of solar energy. From his first licensing as an architect, he was dedicated to developing affordable housing, and was a co-founder of the Vineyard Habitat for Humanity. This commitment extended to organizing and shepherding teams of Islanders and other friends to the Mississippi Delta to build HFH houses for 15 years, only stopping when his Parkinson’s made it impossible to wield a hammer. On the Vineyard or in Mississippi, he devoted as much care and attention to the starter dreams of young clients as he did to those of clients who were famous national figures, and he greatly appreciated continuing friendships with many former clients in both groups.
Benjamin Cheney Moore was born in Hartford, Conn., on June 24, 1935, son of Alice Gay Cheney and Maxwell Moore, a well-known Connecticut architect. His traditional education included Kent School (class of 1957) and Yale University (1961), and the Yale School of Architecture. During this period he married Katherine Hubbard, from Cazenovia, N.Y., and had a son, Maxwell Moore II. After receiving his architecture degree, he spent three years in St. Croix, V.I., working with his cousin Allen Moore’s architecture practice, and designing both public housing and private vacation homes. Seeking a more lively practice and a bigger scene, he moved to Boston, joining Ben Thompson (founder of Design Research and moving force behind Faneuil Hall Market), and then Cambridge Seven Associates. His colleagues at C7A firmly believed that Ben would be back from his “giving the Vineyard a try,” but that was not to be.
Ben’s first marriage ended in 1969, and in 1971 he met and quickly married Patricia Imbrie Worlock (known as Paddy), his true and abiding soulmate. He is survived by Paddy, son Max and grandchildren Maya and Matias; son Andrew Worlock and grandchildren Griffin and Leila Gardner; son Hubbard, wife Zoe, and grandchildren Frida and Happy; son Patrick Worlock, wife Dana and grandchildren Calder and Serra; son Gus, wife Dawn, and grandchildren Ian, Mina, Maggie, and Cathy; son Jason, partner Auna, and grandson Zarhan; sister Martha Moore and brother Alexander Moore; and many beloved nieces, nephews, and friends young and old. His sister, Gay Phillips Nelson, died on May 13, 2018. All of them and the many extended family members and friends will miss their beloved husband, father, grandfather, friend, mentor, singer, and maker of beautiful spaces.
There will be a funeral for Ben at the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury at 2 pm on Saturday, June 30. There will also be a party at the Agricultural Hall on Saturday, Sept. 22, at 3 pm, to remember and celebrate Ben’s life and spirit. All are welcome at either or both.
Donations in Ben’s name would be welcome at Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard, First Congregational Church of West Tisbury, and the Island Housing Trust for affordable housing.