Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust prepares for summer season


From the Flying Horses Carousel in Oak Bluffs to the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown and Alley’s General Store in West Tisbury, on any given day, many Island residents and visitors will walk in, drive by, or pass through a building maintained by the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust.

With an operating budget of $1.5 million for 2014, the trust maintains 20 properties around the Island, many of them acquired when the trust was founded in 1975.

A private, not-for-profit organization supported by contributions from the public and through the management of historic properties, the trust has three special events each year, which generate nearly a third of its income. They are the Taste of the Vineyard gourmet stroll, the Patrons’ Party and Auction, and the generations’ picnic.  In 2013, the combined revenue from ticket sales and auction receipts from the three events was $553,260, Chris Scott, executive director of the trust explained this week.

“The annual return from events varies from year to year, largely based on the items that are donated to the Patrons’ Party silent and live auctions,” Mr. Scott wrote in an email to The Times. “We get different items each year and the attendees differ somewhat as well.”

He stressed the importance of a good economy to the success of his organization’s preservation efforts. “Auction bidding generosity can be affected by the economy. When the economy is robust, people can be generous; when the market has had a very significant setback, that will affect auction performance.  That said, our income each year is generally evenly divided between special events receipts, contributions, and property generated revenues.”

While fundraising events account for some of the trust’s operating costs, the majority of its annual budget is fueled through rentals for events, including weddings and private functions.

“Property income is extremely important to the trust’s annual budget,” Mr. Scott said. “Throughout the trust’s properties, we have numerous tenants that pay annual rent — this provides a stable base to our overall income.  However, as with auction receipts, user fee income is also affected by the health or weakness of the economy.  Weddings, for example, cost more to produce on the Vineyard than on the mainland, and when people are feeling conservative, they will pull back and economize.”

Janet Heath, the trust’s director of special events, said her team is already gearing up for wedding season.

“It’s going to be a good season,” Ms. Heath said. “We’re already ramping up for the summer, and we’re anticipating a lot of activity.”

Ms. Heath said a majority of the inquiries to rent one of the properties comes  from the Trust’s website. “People generally seem to know what they’re looking for even before they call us,” she said. “Our properties are so specific, depending on the type of function or event.”

She said weddings are a big draw to a few of the venues, particularly the Old Whaling Church, Union Chapel, and the Dr. Fisher House in Edgartown.

“Weddings bookend the season with June and September being the most popular,” Ms. Heath said. “The second weekend in September somehow always seems to be the most popular date every year for weddings.  We do take wedding bookings in July and August, too, but September takes the cake.”

Built in 1840, Dr. Daniel Fisher House on Main Street in Edgartown rents for $3,000 per day and is among the most popular venues for weddings and private functions, Ms. Heath said.

“We have a fair number of weddings booked in any one of these venues already, but that seems to be the biggest draw,” Ms. Heath said.

Ms. Heath said performing arts events take charge in July and August, with a peak in August.

“The fireworks and fair week is usually the busiest,” Ms. Heath said. “The backbeat to it all is the steady schedule of the Vineyard artisans festivals, farmers’ markets, and the antique emporium at the Grange Hall, Memorial Day through Columbus Day.”

For more information about the Preservation Trust call 508-627-4440 or go to