Thursday, April 24, 2014

U is for Up Island


My favorite places on Martha's Vineyard, including Aquinnah, shown above, are all "up island," which is somewhat odd because they are actually in the southwestern part of the island. I never knew why the area was called "up island" but chalked it up to typical Vineyard eccentricity.

But while researching posts for the A-Z Challenge I learned that the name comes from the fact that as you travel west on the island you move up the scale of longitude. The longitude of Aquinnah is -70.800786399999990000 while the longitude of Edgartown on the eastern edge of the island is -70.51335990000001. 

Apparently the phrase "up island" is a holdover from the island's seafaring history. So I learned something new this year thanks to the A-Z! 




My A-Z of Martha's Vineyard theme is inspired by my book, The Ghosts of Aquinnah, which is set on the island. Click here for all the info on the book.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T is for Tea Lane


As I mentioned in my "H is for Hammett" post, my great-great grandfather Franklin Hammett worked on a whaling ship and sailed around the world when he was a teenager. After he returned to Martha's Vineyard, he and his wife Nancy lived on a farm on a street called Tea Lane in the town of Chilmark.

The Hammetts had a horse named Grover, who is front and center along with Franklin in the above photo taken in the 1890s. My grandfather spent many summers on Tea Lane as a child and his grandchildren all loved his stories about Grover and the other goings-on on the farm. By all accounts, Grover was a fine horse and it seems clear from this picture that Franklin thought very highly of him.

Stella, the main character in my novel The Ghosts of Aquinnah, whose maiden name is Hammett, lives on a farm in the same area where Franklin and Nancy lived so many years ago. While writing the novel, I couldn't resist naming her horse Grover.



My A-Z of Martha's Vineyard theme is inspired by my book, The Ghosts of Aquinnah, which is set on the island. Click here for all the info on the book.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

S is for Shipwrecks

The wreck of The City of Columbus (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The City of Columbus steamer ran aground off the coast of Aquinnah, Martha's Vineyard in January, 1884 and began to take on water, ultimately sinking into the frigid sea. More than 100 people lost their lives and in its day the Columbus was considered one of the worst sea disasters in history. Headlines of the time proclaimed it as "One of the Worst Horrors Ever Known in New England."

This wreck is the starting point for my novel The Ghosts of Aquinnah and one of my main characters is a fictional survivor named Christopher Casey. 

I had never heard about The City of Columbus until I accidentally stumbled onto it while doing some preliminary research to flesh out the story idea that eventually became the Ghosts novel. 

A few years ago The Martha's Vineyard Museum held an exhibit called Out Of The Depths: Martha's Vineyard Shipwrecks. Included in the exhibit was a door from the ill-fated City of Columbus that washed ashore after the wreck. 


In addition to the Columbus, the exhibit profiled the wreck of the Port Hunter, a WWI supply freighter which collided with a tugboat and sunk off the coast of East Chop in Oak Bluffs. While no one was killed in this wreck, numerous supplies that were on their way to troops in Europe ended up ashore on the island instead. 

To me one of the most interesting parts of the exhibit must have been the images of the submerged ships that are now available thanks to sonar technology. When I visited the Vineyard last summer and stood atop the Aquinnah cliffs, I couldn't help thinking about The City of Columbus submerged somewhere below me, underwater for nearly 130 years. 





My A-Z of Martha's Vineyard theme is inspired by my book, The Ghosts of Aquinnah, which is set on the island. Click here for all the info on the book.


Monday, April 21, 2014

R is for Rookery


In the 1960s my grandfather built the small cottage that my family shares on Martha's Vineyard. For reasons unknown to me, he and my grandmother called it The Rookery.

For decades now, my family, including my uncles and cousins, have stayed at the Rookery on our summer vacations.

Over the years, there have been countless pictures of all of us inside the cottage, on the front steps, or on the back porch. But the below picture, taken when the original "The Rookery" sign was still present above the door, is easily my favorite of them all.


My sisters and I posed on the step for a picture before we headed out to the beach. I'm the little one in the middle.





My A-Z of Martha's Vineyard theme is inspired by my book, The Ghosts of Aquinnah, which is set on the island. Click here for all the info on the book.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Q is for Quansoo Farm

South Beach surf on Martha's Vineyard (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Quansoo Farm is located in Chilmark along the south shore (shown above) of Martha's Vineyard. It is one of the properties of the Sheriff's Meadow Foundation, whose mission is to conserve the landscape of the island.

The word Quansoo means "eel" or "long fish" in the Wampanoag (the native tribe of the island) language. The name is believed to refer to the migration of female eels who went through the farm's Black Point Pond on their way to the sea each fall. Quansoo is a prime spot for fishing and also boasts some of the island's best soil for farming.

I've never been to the farm and honestly don't have much to say about it, but I am grateful to it for giving me a "Q" word! :D



My A-Z of Martha's Vineyard theme is inspired by my book, The Ghosts of Aquinnah, which is set on the island. Click here for all the info on the book.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Parks and Cape Women Online

Before I get to today's "P" post, I wanted to share that my article entitled "A Midwesterner's Love Letter to Martha's Vineyard" was published in the Spring issue of Cape Women Online this week. I was a little nervous about this article because it's one of the most personal things I've ever written, but now that it is finished I'm super excited to have it on the site. I'm celebrating its publication for this week's Celebrate the Small Things hop!

If you'd like to read the article, please visit the magazine site here.

Now on to P and the parks of Martha's Vineyard.

Since Martha's Vineyard is a beautiful island, it's no surprise that it is the home of some beautiful parks.


Owen Park, named for William Barry Owen, who is known for purchasing the rights to Thomas Edison's Victor Talking Machine, is one of those. After his death in 1914, Owen's widow gave the land the park is situated on to the town of Vineyard Haven and the park was born. Located on the Vineyard Haven harbor, it's a picturesque park that is also close to the town's shops and restaurants. Clancy and I enjoyed our visit there last year.


Another charming park is Ocean Park in the town of Oak Bluffs, which was featured in yesterday's "O" post.

Ocean Park gazebo (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The gazebo shown above is the centerpiece of the park. When I was a kid, band concerts were held at the park every Sunday evening in the summer. While the band played inside it, kids would run around the gazebo.

When my niece was a baby in the early 1980s, my dad would pick her up and take her around and around to the music. What I remember most about this is that our dog couldn't stand it if she was not included. She would insist on accompanying my dad and niece and wouldn't be left out. I can't remember if other dogs joined in, but it wouldn't surprise me if they did because the island has always been very dog-friendly.

I can't see the gazebo now without thinking of our little beagle/dachshund dog with her big ears flapping in the wind and her little legs going like crazy to keep up with the concert runners.




My A-Z of Martha's Vineyard theme is inspired by my book, The Ghosts of Aquinnah, which is set on the island. Click here for all the info on the book.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

O is for Oak Bluffs

Oak Bluffs Beach and Harbor (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Oak Bluffs is the home of both the gingerbread cottages I wrote about in my "G" post and the Flying Horses featured in my "F" post. It is also known as the party town of Martha's Vineyard.

In keeping with New England's Puritan beginnings, many of the towns on Martha's Vineyard are "dry," meaning no alcohol can be purchased in them. Diners who go to restaurants in these towns are invited to bring their own wine or beer to dinner but they will not find any alcohol on the menus. Oak Bluffs is one of the exceptions to this rule.

As a result, Circuit Avenue, the town's main street, is lined with bars. If you are looking for night life on the island, Oak Bluffs is the place to go.

But the town is not just about partying. It is also a diverse community that has been the preferred summer resort for many African-Americans for generations.

Oak Bluffs has been called the "Black Hamptons," and it has been a vacation destination for wealthy African-Americans since the 1800s. A popular beach in the town is known as the "Inkwell," reportedly named by Harlem Renaissance writers who visited the town and were inspired by its beaches. One of the Renaissance writers, Dorothy West, wrote a novel about the Oak Bluffs community called The Wedding, which was made into a movie starring Halle Berry and produced by Oprah Winfrey in the 1990s.

The African American Heritage Trail of Martha's Vineyard chronicles the history of African-Americans on the island and runs a tour dedicated to this effort. Dorothy West's home is included on the tour, along with 15 other sites of historical significance.



My A-Z of Martha's Vineyard theme is inspired by my book, The Ghosts of Aquinnah, which is set on the island. Click here for all the info on the book.