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Definition: Martha's Vineyard from Merriam-Webster's Geographical Dictionary

Island in Atlantic Ocean off SW coast of Cape Cod, SE Massachusetts, bet. Elizabeth Is. to the W and Nantucket to the E; part of Dukes co.; 108 sq. mi. (280 sq. km.); ab. 20 mi. (32 km.) long, 2 to 10 mi. (3 to 16 km.) wide; summer resort; chief town Edgartown, on E coast.


Summary Article: Martha’s Vineyard, USA
from The Encyclopedia of Tourism and Recreation in Marine Environments

This quintessential summer resort island lies off the coast of Cape Cod, forming a chain with the Elizabeth Islands. This island, of over 256 km2, is a pleasant mix of bustling towns, such as Vineyard Haven and Edgartown, and remote areas such as Katama Beach and Menemsha (the setting for the movie Jaws). Like Nantucket, the Vineyard experienced financial good fortune from the whaling and fishing industries until the mid-19th century.

Today it is a playground for the rich and famous, with American movie stars, entertainers and presidents enjoying the whales, shops and beautiful country roads that make up this retreat. Of interest to both the historian and visitor is the village of Oak Bluffs. The town was originally a summer encampment for Methodists who sought to escape the heat and stress of nearby cities such as Boston. Over time their tents became ornate gingerbread cottages in an architectural style known as Carpenter Gothic. The Campground is a charming enclave of remarkably detailed homes that provide summer living at its best. The Illumination Night, which occurs in August, features all the cottages brightly decorated, with Chinese lanterns producing a magical aura to an already exceptional environment.

Oak Bluffs proper, outside the campground area, is noteworthy as one of the first resort areas for African Americans of the upper middle class. For over a century, African Americans have come to the Vineyard to enjoy the shops and villages, the beaches and the harmony that typifies this special island.

Lee J. deLisle
© CAB International 2008.

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