The Tabernacle. — Peter Simon
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton has recognized the Camp Ground in Oak Bluffs as a National Historic Landmark.
 
The Camp Ground, created as a gathering place for Methodist religious revivals starting in 1835, is one of 24 new national landmarks named earlier this month of Secretary Norton.
 
The National Park Service Advisory Board nominated the Camp Ground under the name Wesleyan Grove.
 
The Camp Ground was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. The further designation of National Historic Landmark recognizes the place as one of “nationally significant properties of exceptional value in representing or illustrating an important theme, event or person in the history of the nation,” according to the park service.
 
“We’re completely thrilled,” said Russell Dagnall, president of the board governing the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association.
 
Mr. Dagnall said the association applied for the designation in 2002, but encountered delays. Last fall, association members attended a meeting in Washington D.C., where they answered questions about the application, although Mr. Dagnall said the decision was based on its written application.
 
The federal government will provide the association with a bronze plaque to mark the landmark designation. Mr. Dagnall said the Camp Ground likely will schedule an event in July or August at which federal officials would present the plaque.
 
The Camp Ground was recognized for its historic significance between the years of 1835 and 1901.
 
An “American phenomenon, religious camp meetings were open air revivals which lasted several days,” the park service stated. “Wesleyan Grove served as the prototype of the community form of permanent camp meetings and resorts that were common across the country after the Civil War. The participants needed a place to sat at the revival site because they were far from home.
 
“Wesleyan Grove’s plan and many of its architectural characteristics were emulated by many other camp meetings in the United States,” the park service stated. “The district includes over 300 contributing resources within its 34-acre site.”
 
The association has yet to determine where to place the plaque is on the front of the association’s office building on Trinity Circle.