Who Was Charlotte?

From the Vineyard Gazette editions of April, 1958:

Happy days have dawned again for the Charlotte Inn in Edgartown, which, when it opened in 1935, was the Island’s newest inn, and has actually so remained. For a completely renovated inn will be opened as soon as humanely possible, under new management with the same expert elan as in recent years. Taking over the management of the hotel are Mr. and Mrs. Samuel R. Mays of Greenwich., Conn., who know the Island well and have many friends in the summer colony. It is their intention to restore the inn to its rightful place in the esteem of its summer and Island patrons, and to beautify the grounds as well as the interior of the main building and the annex. What is now the Charlotte Inn was once Edgartown’s most impressive residence, built for Samuel Osborn and completed in January, 1868. Mr. Osborn had married Zoraida Coffin, daughter of Timothy Coffin, who was a whaling capitalist of the old school. Himself an agent and owner of whaleships, Mr. Osborn was responsible for an aggregate product of more than $6,000,000 in oil and whalebone. In modern times the house became a grocery store, kept first by Manuel Silva Jr., and then by Philip S. Pent. Edgartown was taken by surprise in 1935 when it became known that the sign and red front of the grocery were to be replaced, and that a new hotel named the Charlotte Inn, for Mrs. Pent, was to come into existence. Mrs. Pent imbued the inn with her own personality and with such interest and energy that it was immediately successful.

Three notables who have been associated with the Vineyard over a period of years, Miss Helen Keller, Miss Katharine Cornell and Van Wyck Brooks, are featured in a leaflet released by the American Foundation for Overseas Blind. No more compelling appeal for a good cause could be dreamed of than that which features Mr. Brooks’ moving tribute excerpted from his book about Miss Keller which is titled Sketch for a Portrait. Miss Cornell, Miss Keller’s hostess when she comes to the Island, writes an appropriate paragraph for the leaflet, which is illustrated with pictures of the great woman who triumphed over fate’s hardest blows and whose inspiration has brought hope to many other sightless people all over the world.

As the first spring flowers begin to bloom, Island police have extended a warning to one and all that the theft of flowers and plants from private property will not be tolerated. In all towns and villages, police say that a systematic theft of flowers occurs each year, the pilferer being so brazen as to enter upon property which is occupied. A daily round of many properties where flowers were growing, was made last year by an individual whose name is known to the police, and that particular person is hereby warned by John E. Palmeira, West Tisbury chief, against repeating the offense this season.

A couple of Vineyarders have solved the riddle of how to make herring profitable. George Cook of Gay Head, who owns the Gay Head Herring Creek rights, assisted by Lynn Murphy, and Reginald and Bradford Norton, has been going great guns in scooping up the herring in huge nets. The fish are loaded on a huge truck and shipped on the early ferry. Some probably go into fish meal or cat food, and some are eaten by those who still have a taste for herring in the spring.

Once upon a time there was a summer place on the Vineyard where a constant succession of visitors had the kind of fun they remembered for many years to come. Inside the house had mementoes from the world over, for the owners were traveled people and the evidence was there, gracing and somehow harmonizing with the old farmhouse which had been kept in its simple and sincere state. To the house came people from many parts of the country and the world, to engage in the feast of reason which was always to be had when the good friends got together and which played as vital a part in their visit’s satisfaction as the less ethereal feast which was likely to include lobster and bonito and chocolate cake and strawberry shortcake and peas from the garden. The shelves were lined with books, some of them scrapbooks preserving the events of a career, and in the evenings the guests browsed their fill in the light of kerosene lanterns. This was the pattern of life in the old house for nearly two generations, during which the machine age came to fruition. Now came the chorus: There was no golf club or yacht club within easy reach. The charms of the beach and the woods were old hat. And the old house, slightly indignant, had time and silence to think. And its thoughts were long, long thoughts, and many of them had to do with the frivolity of the present day and the change, change, change which was bringing a new Vineyard, but not a better one, into being.

Compiled by Cynthia Meisner