Welcome to the Town of Vineyard Haven Massachusetts
By: Hannah Fillmore-Patrick
For thousands of years before explorer Bartholomew Gosnold discovered Martha’s Vineyard, various tribes of Wampanoag Indians lived in the area that would become Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts. Beginning in 1660, Europeans from Plymouth Colony, including the son of Captain Myles Standish, began to build homes on Martha’s Vineyard as well. These settlers founded Holmes Hole, the small town that eventually grew into Vineyard Haven (a village of Tisbury).
Before the Cape Cod Canal opened in 1914, ships travelling between Boston and New York would often stop in Vineyard Haven on their way around the Cape. The town quickly became a maritime trade center, as well as a shipbuilding powerhouse. In the late nineteenth century, the Holmes Hole Marine Railway in Vineyard Haven built large schooners and briggs that sailed from Vineyard Haven Harbor to every corner of the globe. During World War II, the town of Vineyard Haven was critical to the United States war effort. Between 1942 and 1943, the military commandeered large swaths of land along Vineyard Haven Harbor.
On this land, they put shipbuilders to work constructing barges, personnel boats, and other military vessels. From 1941 to 1945, the army also used Martha’s Vineyard to practice beach landings and assaults in preparation for the D-Day landings in Normandy. Today, the beaches that were once occupied by shipbuilders and soldiers are quieter.
Owen Park Beach, for example, is a popular destination for families with young children, since it lies on the warm, tranquil waters of Vineyard Haven Harbor. This accessible beach is just feet from the local Steamship Authority, where ferries unload visitors from Woods Hole and New Bedford. Nearby, Tisbury Town Beach sits adjacent to the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club. This small beach is a great place for beachgoers to watch boats sail across the harbor as they relax in the sand.
There are also freshwater beaches (or close to it) in Vineyard Haven. Lake Tashmoo Town Beach is located where Herring Creek empties freshwater into the brackish Lake Tashmoo. This small, quiet beach is an ideal spot for beachgoers who prefer swimming in fresher water, as well as for fisherman hoping to catch blueback herring and alewives in Herring Creek.