The origins of West Tisbury’s New Lane

New Lane in West Tisbury has 2 right-angle turns because of an old clothesline. —Google Earth

New Lane in West Tisbury exists because of a clothesline.

In the early days, the Tiah’s Cove Road originated at the two granite posts that still mark the entrance to Cleaveland House, and ran in a straight line between the house and the barn, which the 1938 hurricane destroyed. If you look at a roadmap, you can see this would have been a straight route leading to Tiah’s Cove, rather than the present two right-angle jogs on New Lane.

On wash days, my great-grandfather, Capt. James Cleaveland, would string the clothesline between the house and barn. At the time, horse and wagon traffic to Tiah’s Cove was almost nonexistent. About the only inhabitant in Tiah’s Cove was Nancy Luce, an eccentric woman who wrote poetry and memorialized her deceased chickens with engraved tombstones.

However, Nancy Luce’s eccentricity, her chickens, their tombstones, and her poetry began to attract an off-Island following. Horse-drawn buses brought flocks of tourists to visit her and her chickens, and purchase her books of poetry. As you might imagine, Capt. Cleaveland was not pleased by the traffic heading to Tiah’s Cove — especially the inconvenience of taking down the clothesline on wash days to allow sightseeing buses to pass between house and barn on the way to “that crazy woman’s” place.

His solution was to create a new lane at the boundary of his property, and close off the lane that ran between house and barn.

That’s why New Lane has two right-angle turns before it ends at Tiah’s Cove Road. All because of a clothesline.

As a follow-up, it was my father, Sidney Noyes Riggs, who would string the clothesline between house and barn on wash days. I remember how he’d take it down, swinging the line back and forth to play jump-rope with one of our chickens, Old Mournful.