This was then: Bathers by the Oak Bluffs pier

Photo courtesy of Chris Baer

Chris Baer teaches photography and graphic design at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. He’s been collecting vintage photographs for many years.


Three unidentified beachgoers show off their outfits at the “bathing beach” in Oak Bluffs about 1920. Bathers arrived fully clothed and then changed into their bathing costumes in one the dozens of bathhouses visible on the left. Daredevils would dive from the wharves and rafts while others would climb the enormous boulder known as “Lover’s Rock” (off-camera to the viewer’s right), but most would forego the water altogether or simply bathe. The steamer wharf is seen in the distance where visitors would arrive on one of the aging sidewheel steamers arriving from New Bedford and Woods Hole. Bathing was not a popular activity until the end of the 19th century, and until 1896 the Martha’s Vineyard Railroad, connecting the steamer wharf to Katama’s Mattakeesett Lodge, dominated much of this waterfront.