Obama' s Vacation in Oak Bluffs: Foxboro Man Creates Presidential Getaway
|Carpenter Cottage 1869|
During the summers of 1864 and 1865 Carpenter occupied a cottage within the Camp Meeting grounds on Martha’s Vineyard, and was desirous of purchasing a site for permanent occupancy. But as this was against the rules of the Camp Meeting Association, the following year, in 1866, he organized a joint stock association and purchased seventy-five acres of wood and cleared land southeast of the property of the Camp Meeting grounds. The association was soon incorporated as the “Oak Bluffs Land and Wharf Company,” and an architect was retained to design the cottage lots, avenues and parks. The first advertisement for the newly named resort of “Oak Bluffs” appeared in the July 5, 1867, edition of the Vineyard Gazette and by 1872 over eight hundred lots were sold, with the ‘choicest’ lots sold personally by Carpenter.
|Sea View Hotel|
|Dining Room Sea View Hotel|
|Martha’s Vineyard Rail Road (Small Gauge)|
But the era’s economic prosperity and popularity of Oak Bluffs, poetically referred to at the time as the “Cottage City of America” also resulted in an ever-widening disagreement between the residents of Edgartown and the non-resident taxpayers of Oak Bluffs. The first noteworthy mention of secession was revealed in an August 15, 1872, letter to the Vineyard Gazette, “You have heard, probably, of the secession movement in this vicinity. Well, Mr. Editor, more fuss than feathers are the result thus far, and the advocates of the movement are as scarce as Greeley Republicans.” The writer provides evidence that the secession sentiment was taken lightly at first. But over the next several years sentiment continued to gain support to the level where the Boston Globe would report, “But when two sections of a town hate each other as badly as these do, it seems as if it would be better to separate them.”
During these same years Carpenter’s political connections and business astuteness in support of secession was potent but remained behind the scenes. The secessionists claimed that they were not deservedly recognized in Edgartown affairs; that the two settlements were entirely separate, and should be allowed to pursue their policy in town expenditures. Opponents to the division were concerned about the loss of taxable property to Edgartown. The matter finally resulted in two unsuccessful petitions to the Massachusetts Legislature in March 1878 and February 1879. A third petition in 1880 was successful and on February 17th the town of Cottage City (renamed Oak Bluffs in 1907) was incorporated from parts of Edgartown. Many members of the state legislature who were also supporters of succession went to Cottage City to celebrate, but noticeably missing from among the celebrants was E. P. Carpenter.
Carpenter’s Oak Bluffs legacy may be a side bar in history today, but his public absence at the Cottage City celebration caused one reporter to write, “Not present was Erastus P. Carpenter, the man most responsible for the celebration. He and his associates had opened up acres of pasture land, created a lively village that now had 1106 taxable buildings valued at $1,212,527, among them eighteen hotels and forty-four stores, shops and restaurants. The village had been paying sixty percent of all tax money collected by the old town of Edgartown. Now a separate town, Cottage City was ranked in the top half of the three-hundred and six towns in Massachusetts in real-estate valuation – that’s how much it had grown in a dozen years.”