Drawing a crowd at Cuttyhunk


To The Editor:

On August 8, I made my first trip to Cuttyhunk after living on the Island for the last seven years. Cuttyhunk has held a certain mystery from being so close and knowing almost no one who has ever been there. I want to recognize the generosity of Island author Cynthia Riggs, who kindly extended an invitation to her Wednesday Writers Group to join her when she was ferried over from Menemsha by Captain JP Hunter and his Cuttyhunk water taxi, The Seahorse, and gave a talk to benefit the Cuttyhunk Library.

Wednesday Writers Group member Sarah Smith, a teacher at The MV Charter School in West Tisbury and owner of The Loft, specializing in custom canvas and sail repair, grew up spending her summers on Cuttyhunk. Sarah purchased the entire collection of Cynthia’s Victoria Trumball books and donated them to the Cuttyhunk Library and then they invited her, and she in turn brought 12 of us along with her.

We were met by Cuttyhunk librarian Dorothy Garfield, a 31-year summer resident who, along with her husband Seth, are proprietors of Cuttyhunk Shellfish Farms and Floating Raw Bar, when not teaching science at Providence’s The Wheeler School; and library trustee chairman Gail Blout, a Cuttyhunk selectman and secretary for the Cuttyhunk Historical Society. She has also been a summer resident for 16 years when not living in Cambridge. They gave us rides in ATVs – an island necessity.

We went on the one road up the big hill to the library, established in 1892. Before going in, Cynthia found waiting for her former Howes House Writers Group member and retired pastor of the Trinity Methodist Church in Oak Bluffs, the Rev. Mary Jane O’Connor-Ropp, serving her third summer at Cuttyhunk Union Methodist Church. It was a wonderful reunion before our tour of the 780 square foot library with no air conditioning or fans, just a cross-breeze when all the windows are open.

The collection is approximately 10,000 volumes. This library continues to pride itself on its card catalog and checkout cards, everything runs better there the old fashioned way. After working for seven years with the state trying to get a necessary construction grant the library was defeated by one vote at the May 2011 town meeting and is now looking at a much smaller plan. Cuttyhunk Library needs to create handicap access, add a bathroom (none exists,) and tear down the added wings (one added in 1957 and one added in the1960s), both which have unsalvageable foundations. The new design is for a scaled down version of what the state required them to build to be eligible for state funding.

To a nearly full town hall of what may have become her latest fans, Cynthia gave her own brief history of Martha’s Vineyard, some family history, and she told tales of writing her mystery series, her mother, and what we can expect down the road.

Valerie Sonnenthal