This was then: The Bank

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.

The Bank

The Martha’s Vineyard National Bank, shown here behind a formidable snow drift, was built in 1905 by William Barry Owen on the site of the old harness factory.

Owen was a Vineyard Haven native who became wildly rich selling gramophones in Europe for the Victor Talking Machine Company. (A painting he bought of a dog listening to a gramophone became the famous trademark image of Victor and its eventual parent company, RCA.) Owen retired to the Vineyard a millionaire in 1903 and spent his money here broadly, building a state-of-the-art leather novelty factory, a farm for breeding prize-winning “fancy” poultry imported from England, and acquiring enough stock of The Martha’s Vineyard National Bank of Edgartown to force its relocation to Vineyard Haven. (The move of this fifty-year-old institution was widely viewed as a blow to Edgartown’s prestige. Angry residents responded by organizing the Edgartown National Bank.)

Owen’s new bank was designed by architect J. Williams Beal of Boston and built of fieldstone in the shape of a Greek cross. The design included a ladies’ waiting room. MIT-trained architect Beal also designed the Fogg Opera House in South Weymouth, the Charles Street African Methodist Episcopal Church in Boston, The Mayflower Inn on Manomet Point, and many others.

Sheriff Walter Renear ran a livery, Ford agency, and real estate business out of the old stable next door, seen on the right. It was razed in 1922 for the Cromwell brothers hardware store, presently occupied by the Green Room.