Museums & Historic Sites

7 Must-See Historic Sites on Martha’s Vineyard

October 16, 2023

Martha’s Vineyard is a beautiful island off the coast of Cape Cod with a rich history and many historical sites to explore. From lighthouses to historic homes and cultural landmarks, you’ll find a variety of historical sites on Martha’s Vineyard.

Notable Historic Sites on Martha’s Vineyard

1. Vincent House Museum

7 must-see historic sites on martha’s vineyard

Address: 99 Main St
City/State/Zip Code: Edgartown, MA 02539

The Vincent House Museum, located in historic Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard, is a captivating glimpse into the island’s past. This elegant 18th-century home, built in 1672, has been impeccably preserved, displaying the island’s colonial heritage. Visitors can explore period furnishings, antique artifacts, and exhibits that shed light on the island’s history, whaling era, and maritime traditions. The Vincent House Museum is a must-visit for those seeking to delve into the rich cultural and historical fabric of Martha’s Vineyard.

2. East Chop Lighthouse

7 must-see historic sites on martha’s vineyard

Address: 229 E Chop Dr
City/State/Zip Code: Vineyard Haven, MA 02568

The East Chop Lighthouse, perched on the northeastern bluffs of Martha’s Vineyard, is an iconic maritime landmark with a rich history. This historic lighthouse was first constructed in 1869, and its distinctive red-brick tower, standing at 40 feet tall, overlooks Vineyard Haven Harbor and Nantucket Sound. The light’s purpose is to guide ships safely through these waters. Visitors are drawn to its picturesque setting and the adjacent keeper’s house, making it a charming spot to explore and appreciate the island’s maritime heritage.

3. Gingerbread Cottages & Museum

7 must-see historic sites on martha’s vineyard

Address: 11 Trinity Park
City/State/Zip Code: Oak Bluffs, MA 02557

The Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association in Oak Bluffs is famous for its unique and colorful Gingerbread Cottages built in the early 19th century for the New England Methodists religious revivals. Eventually they built about 500 permanent cottages to house the attendants, and the place became known as ‘Cottage City’.

Today over 300 cottage houses remain in Martha’s Vineyard, each having a unique name. Stroll around the old Cottage City or visit the Cottage Museum to learn about the history of this charming community.

4. Edgartown Harbor Light

7 must-see historic sites on martha’s vineyard

Address: 121 N Water St
City/State/Zip Code: Edgartown, MA 02539

Edgartown Harbor Light, also known as “Edgartown Lighthouse,” is an iconic landmark located in Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard. This historic lighthouse stands as a sentinel on the eastern entrance to the Edgartown Harbor, guiding mariners through these treacherous waters. Originally built in 1828, it has undergone several renovations and upgrades over the years. The current structure, a white wooden tower with a red lantern room, serves both as a navigational aid and a picturesque symbol of the island’s maritime heritage, drawing visitors to its scenic location along the island’s shores.

“Every monument of civilization is a monument of barbarism”.
– Walter Benjamin

5. Aquinnah Cliffs & Gay Head Lighthouse

7 must-see historic sites on martha’s vineyard

Address: 31 Aquinnah Cir
City/State/Zip Code: Aquinnah, MA 02535

The Aquinnah Cliffs Overlook on Martha’s Vineyard, also known as Gay Head Cliffs, is a captivating natural wonder renowned for its stunning red and white clay cliffs. Resting on top of these picturesque cliffs is the historic Gay Head Lighthouse, open July through August and weekends through Indigenous Peoples Day.

The site is not only known for its remarkable geological features but also holds cultural significance for the Wampanoag Tribe, who reside in the nearby Aquinnah Wampanoag Indian Reservation. It’s a must-visit destination for those seeking both natural beauty and cultural heritage on Martha’s Vineyard.

6. African American Heritage Trail

Address: Multiple Locations
Town/State: Oak Bluffs & Edgartown, MA

Explore 30 sites related to African American history and heritage on the island. The trail leads visitors across the island exploring a range of stories and sites relevant to the black experience on the island throughout its history.

A range of daily tours are given over the summer months, varying in length and focus. You can also download a map from their site and take a self-guided tour in the off-season.

“Our democracy is not a product but a continual process. It is preserved not by monuments but deeds. Sometimes it needs refining; sometimes it needs amending; sometimes it needs defending. Always, it needs improving”.
– Lee H. Hamilton

7. Old Whaling Church

Address: 99 Main Street
Town/State: Edgartown, MA

The Old Whaling Church, now a property of the Vineyard Trust, was built in 1843 by skilled shipwrights for the Methodist whaling captains in Edgartown. Known as some of the finest Greek Revival architecture within New England, it is certainly worth a visit on your history tour of the Vineyard.

The Church, now a cultural center, is used for community events, concerts, and performances throughout the year. If you attend a performance here, be sure to arrive early to admire the intricate murals and carvings throughout the building.

Explore More History of Martha’s Vineyard

To make the most of your exploration of historical siteson Martha’s Vineyard, consider taking guided tours and visiting the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, which provides valuable insights into the island’s past.

Be sure to check out the Museums on Martha’s Vineyard Enjoy your journey through the island’s history and culture!

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