It takes a village


To the Editor:

My mother, Patricia Neal, loved everything about Martha’s Vineyard. She mostly loved the Islanders and our close-knit community. Her favorite pastime was sitting out in front of our South Water Street house with a glass of wine, heckling the Rev. John Schule whenever she spotted him: “Oh Vicar! Come drink with me!” Her deep, husky voice boomed across South Water Street. More often than not, the Rev. John Schule, and later his successor, the Rev. Dr. Jerry Fritz, would happily skip across the street from the parsonage and sit for hours, admiring the beautiful, ever-changing light over the harbor, chatting to and welcoming every one of the many residents and visitors who passed by, always offering to photograph them with the magnificent view of the harbor as the backdrop. I, over the years, spent hundreds of hours sitting with my mother, watching the ever-changing light as the boats and people drifted by. “Isn’t it grand,” my mother would always say, after a sip of wine, almost breathing in the beauty of the harbor. My mother taught me by example to be kind to everyone, to be selfless, to know that we are all equal, no matter our race, gender, or background, and to play bingo. But most important, she taught me to respect our neighbors, our friends, and our community, to always give and never to take. 

I believe that most Islanders have these values, but perhaps not all. I am writing to bring attention to a proposal submitted to the Edgartown Historic Committee by Patrick Ahern for David Malm, the new owner of 81 South Water St. He proposes to shift the original, historic Mayhew house to its side. This would impede the town view. In addition, he proposes to add another large structure, extending all the way across the lawn, which would entirely block the much-loved vista. Hundreds of people stop daily to take in and photograph the serenity and beauty of the harbor. If this is not met with protest, the public vista will vanish, leaving a newly built house, from which only Mr. Malm and his tenants could enjoy the view. Please realize, visitors and residents would no longer be able to see what they have delighted in for hundreds of years.

Mr. Malm has recently bought many beautiful old homes, reported at a value of $100 million, on both Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. The character of this beautiful historic town is unique, and deserves to be protected. Is this the coming of more destruction of that character? A question for Mr. Malm: Are you aware of the housing shortage on the island? If you are, would you be interested in helping to relieve that shortage? Generations of Island residents and business owners are being forced off the Island to find housing. Perhaps an investment in affordable housing would be more appreciated by the community, rather than ruining a vista Islanders and visitors alike have taken pleasure in for many years. Is it fair to reserve the enjoyment of that view for only yourself and your tenants? If it is privacy you seek, then you have purchased the wrong property, as South Water Street is a destination for many tourists and visitors who come seeking the beauty of the harbor.

Perhaps you are unaware of the damage your plan will do to a town landmark that so many people enjoy daily? If so, how might we educate you about this community where giving is more important than taking? In my experience, longtime year-round and seasonal residents respect

and care for one another.

Mr. Ahearn was recently quoted in Martha’s Vineyard magazine: “My clients,” he said, “learn that their interests are best served when we collectively consider the interests of the general public.” It is often difficult, but always important, to practice what we preach. This town and this community are worth the effort.

Perhaps some day we can enjoy a game of community bingo at my house, while admiring the view.

Islanders, visitors, and beyond, please help stop this development from going forward by sending an email to, or delivering a letter to the Historic District Commission, P.O. Box 5158, Edgartown, MA 02539, objecting to this selfish proposal.

Please also join the public meeting via Zoom, on May 18 at 4 pm.

Lucy Dahl