Tag Archives: Oak Bluffs

27 September 2019:
Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, USA:
Tabernacles, Camp Meetings, and Carousels on Martha’s Vineyard

By Corey Sandler

We are almost at the end of this particular odyssey, one that began in Reykjavik, crossed east to the UK, made a circle of the British Isles, then crossed the pond westward to Iceland and the Atlantic Provinces of Canada. Tonight we will head to New York. For us, it is time to head home for a while.

Our penultimate port of call was on a glorious autumn day at Martha’s Vineyard.

Martha’s Vineyard is famous for being famous. This beautiful island in the North Atlantic is large enough to have hills and valleys and harbors and lakes. It’s also close enough to the mainland of Cape Cod in Massachusetts to be relatively easy to get to.

And because of some peculiarities of location, economy, and religion Martha’s Vineyard has a somewhat unusual history. It does not have the same back-story as Cape Cod, mainland ports of New England, or of the farther-away neighboring island of Nantucket.

Oak Bluffs, population about 4,000…plus however many tens of thousands of summer people are hanging around—was the only one of the six towns on the island to be planned, and the only one developed specifically with tourism in mind.

Some of the earliest visitors to the area that became Cottage City and later Oak Bluffs were Methodists who gathered in the oak grove each summer for multi-day religious “camp meetings” held under large tents or in the open air.

From that base came tourism of all sorts. In the late 1880s, the church tent was replaced by the Tabernacle, an open-sided pavilion with a metal roof supported by wrought iron columns.

In 1884, the Flying Horses Carousel was brought to Oak Bluffs from Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York and installed a few blocks inland from the ocean.

Built in 1876, it is the oldest platform carousel still in operation.

All photos and text Copyright 2019 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. See more photos on my website at http://www.coreysandler.com


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