This Was Then: The Lockup

Getting put ‘on ice’ in a former ice house.

The old Vineyard Haven lockup, where local lawbreakers were temporarily detained by the town constable, stood where the current Stop and Shop parking lot is today. —Courtesy Chris Baer

The old Vineyard Haven lockup — where local lawbreakers were temporarily detained by the town constable — once occupied the northeast corner of this barn on Water Street, where today lies only the enlarged town parking lot next to Stop and Shop. It was probably in use during the 1800s. This photograph dates to about 1960.

Vineyard Haven resident Stan Lair (1902–87) recalled that by the early 20th century, the old barn belonged to Dr. Edward Roth, a local physician: “[It] was just about ready to fall over, for a good many years. It was leaning way to the southward, there, ready to collapse. I think in it was an old car; a 1903 Rambler was in there for a long time that belonged to the old doctor. In one corner of that building was a village lockup. It was a small room with a barred window, high off the ground. I never saw it being used, but I imagine it was used at some time.”

The barn was originally an ice house located in Eastville, and the cell may have dated from these early years. The barred window reportedly remained visible until its sale to the town by Dr. Roth’s son, Colonel Edward Roth Jr., in 1962. The building was demolished shortly afterward, and the town parking lot extended.

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