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This Was Then: The Holmes Hole skyline

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Behold Vineyard Haven — or as many of the locals still called it, Holmes Hole — as it appeared in the late 1870s. This photograph was taken on two plates from what is now...

Safe harbors

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Beacons on hilltops have guided mariners to safe harbor since the dawn of recorded history, and when Martha’s Vineyard was an important port for whale ships and other seafarers, lighthouses showed the way safely...

This little pipe

Come Thanksgiving, Gregory West Drake thinks about “the pipe,” a hefty little metal object said to have crossed the Atlantic aboard the Mayflower, been smoked by Myles Standish in the Plymouth colony, and subsequently...

This Was Then: Turkey Land

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Former President Barack Obama summers in a quiet part of Edgartown known as Turkeyland (sometimes spelled “Turkey Land”). Edgartonians were long mocked as “Old Town Turkeys” by our neighboring Nantucketeers. Our modern Island is...

This Was Then: MacNeill’s Grocery

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At the edge of downtown Oak Bluffs, on the corner of Pennacook and Circuit Avenues, stands a building with a long and colorful history: 82 Pennacook Ave., owned by the town of Oak Bluffs...

Eye-opening exhibit

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History is typically written by those in power, and museum exhibitions often focus on people at the top of the social pyramid with the ability to be the master of their own fate. The...

This Was Then: Forgotten films

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Obie Tower liked his toys. Basil Welch reminisced about him in a 1982 conversation with my grandfather, Stan Lair, in a recording made about a year after Obie’s death: “Obie always had a sporty-looking...

Preserving an era

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"This is an account of one citizen's attempt to engage his government during a particularly troubled time of our national life ...1965 to 1974." So begins a remarkable, community-built book that's part memoir, part...

This Was Then: The Sanitarium

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Martha’s Vineyard was widely promoted in the late 1800s and early 1900s as a place of healing. The ad-packed 1932 booklet titled “Martha’s Vineyard: The Isle of Dreams and Health” gushes over the Island’s...

‘Freedom dreams’

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As you walk down the hall on the second floor of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, the vibrant, 30- by 42-in. photographic portraits in the large, light-filled Hollinshead gallery straight ahead beckon to you. There...

A tale of two villages

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What does a medieval church built between 1180 and 1200 have in common with Martha’s Vineyard? St. John’s parish church is located in Tisbury, U.K., and the village’s name, along with the nearby village...

Boning up

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“Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow!” “This was real life. Oh my God, this was made in the olden days.” “Look at this fossil. Excellent!” Fossil enthusiasts and rock hounds of all ages attended this year’s National...

This Was Then: Pernambuco, Brazil

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The Brazilian state of Pernambuco could be compared geographically to Massachusetts: a small, populous, Atlantic coastal state shaped like a rectangular(ish) slab, sporting 100 miles or so of Eastern coastline. Our Boston is their...

‘Let’s Dance!’

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How do you bring dance to life in a museum exhibition, which is inherently made up of objects that don’t move? Exhibitions assistant Kate Logue skillfully animates the show by covering the walls with...

A museum of understanding

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When is a museum more than a museum? When it’s Oak Bluffs’ Mariposa Museum and World Culture Center, which is a welcoming, light-filled space brimming with art expressions of many kinds. The museum was...

This Was Then: Captain Pound

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It was late in the day on August 27, 1689. Capt. John Kent of Newbury, Mass., was sailing his brig, Merrimack, from New York to Boston. With him were his mate, Robert Almeric, crewman...

This Was Then: Floods, eclipses, and volcanoes

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An alarming report began to circulate in newspapers across the country during the summer of 1796. “Extraordinary Occurrence” ran the headlines. Under a New Bedford dateline, the various articles were all slight variations on...

This Was Then: Heck Benefit

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The first of the two Benefit brothers to arrive on Martha’s Vineyard at the turn of the last century used many names and spellings — sometimes he went by Angelo, sometimes by Eugene. His...

‘Stan Murphy at 100’ on exhibition at the M.V. Museum

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Stan Murphy was renowned as a premiere and well-respected Island artist. The current exhibition at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum is an overview of his life and art, celebrating the 100th anniversary of his birth. He...

This Was Then: Ben Luce

There were at least a dozen men named “Benjamin Luce” who resided on Martha’s Vineyard over the past four centuries — all cousins of one another. Once, you could drive a cart from near...