Editor’s Note: Jane Slater has been writing the weekly Chilmark column for the Vineyard Gazette for decades. This is a column she prepared specially for the arrival of President Obama this weekend.
Mr. President, Chilmark welcomes you and your family. Tradition has it that you are the third president since John Adams to spend time in Chilmark and we are honored to have you.
Chilmark is a rural community at the southwest corner of Martha’s Vineyard where farmers and fishermen have made their home since 1694.
We are working hard to preserve our past and secure our future. There are nine farms in town at present, all working to give us locally grown produce and our fishermen are experimenting with new fishing techniques and introducing new catches in an attempt to guarantee the future of their industry.
We hope you notice our town hall that dates to 1898 and was newly renovated in 2004. Our library is built around an old farmhouse of 1850 with 2003 renovations. We hope you notice our newly built school that is equipped for 50 children. The former schoolhouse is now the town’s police station. It was, until 1999, the oldest continuously used schoolhouse in the state of Massachusetts. Our only church, the Chilmark Community Church, added a steeple in 1931 to the building that dates to the 1850s.
We are an interesting mix of year-round residents, many of whom can trace their roots back to the Mayhew founders of the Island and many who have chosen the Island way of life in more recent years. Our numbers increase every summer as many families return to seasonal homes that have been in their families for generations.
Chilmark appears to be a rural New England town with a general store, church, library and a number of restaurants. However, we are a forward-looking town with much work being currently done to get affordable housing built as a town project.
We are proud of our town hall form of government and our many volunteers who form the committees and commissions that run the town. We are proud of our fiscal conservatism and our liberal politics. Of the 374 votes cast for President in 2008, 243 votes were for you, Mr. President!
As you see, we are a typical small American town full of ideas, ambitions and aspirations. We share your vision of a better world and we hope that you and your family will enjoy a comfortable and restful vacation among us.