People expect January to be a cold, dark month with nothing much happening, but the month is not living up to its reputation. The days are starting to be noticeably longer, and the sun feels warmer already when it shows up, which hasn’t been often. No doubt winter still will arrive, but last week was so warm I finished up the outdoor painting I began in November.
Besides this month’s vagaries of nature, it’s also been busier than usual around town. As the library is still housed at the town hall, I’ve been observing the various building projects in town as I walk back and forth from the ferry.
The new building where the old Navigator restaurant used to be at the end of Main and Dock streets continues to be constructed, a bit at a time. So far, the structure is a modest size and nice enough looking, but there is a big foundation hole next to it that has yet to show its full colors.
I often pass another tear-down on South Summer street where two-thirds of a small Cape is propped up – with its back all open as if it’s a doll house for a giant child — ready to be joined to a new unbuilt section that looks as if it will take up most of the rest of the lot.
On Summer on the other side of Main Street is a different kind of project. The former property of Doctor Mills, at the edge of town’s “hidden” park, is sprouting four small two-story buildings arranged nicely on the lot. They will house shops and contain apartments on the second floor, some of them to be designated “affordable.” It should be a thrifty location to live, right across from the Boys’ and Girls’ Club Second Hand Store.
Closer to the ferry, the action is happening more underground. The work related to burying the electric lines continues, although Daggett and Dock streets have been returned to a somewhat flattened state, with incipient potholes. Peter Wells is still keeping an eye on the work, making sure we know where the ferry line is forming each day.
Last week, the crew dug a 12-foot-deep hole at the bottom of Simpson’s Lane to bury a connector box. At another place, on Daggett street, they dug up some old wooden water pipe about four feet down. Peter has a short section of it – a piece of tree trunk about a foot in diameter with a four-inch hole bored out. He said it was probably someone’s private water line, maybe coming down from a cistern farther up the hill, that might have brought water to a boat. Although it was probably well over a hundred years old, the wood was completely intact because of saltwater pickling from the tidal intrusion at that depth.
I spoke with Jeff Chapman, who worked for the town water department for more than twenty years. He is a font of knowledge about the town’s water system. He told me the town waterworks began as a private company in 1906 in the slate-roofed brick building at Wintucket. Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven already had town water systems because they’d had big fires. (Edgartown’s Dock street, called Front street on the old water company maps, had burned about 1886, which explains the lack of old buildings in that short stretch.)
Pipes ran from Wintucket into town on routes under fields and dirt roads, many of which are now overgrown with trees. Maps mark turns and gates in the pipe with notations such as: an oak tree with a nail in it, or a certain number of feet from a rock, or the name of a house that once belonged to a whaling captain.
Jeff mentioned a water pipe, installed in the 1980s when the majority of improvements were made to the system, that runs down Pease’s Point Way and ends on North Water street. It’s capped and waiting to be continued across the harbor to Chappy! The water company figured the island would need town water by 2025, because of saltwater intrusion due to increased water use as more houses were built. There have been some water problems already on Menaca Hill and North Neck.
On Chappy, traffic, which has been less lately, seems to be picking up at the ferry, partly because of some new construction starts. Supposedly a 19-section modular house is being floated to a Green Pastures lot on a barge.
Driving up from the ferry a week ago, I noticed Edgartown’s little fleet of scallop boats, which has been fishing off the beach club, has moved farther along to right off where the shore curves as the Chappy road goes up the big hill. I’d never seen them in that spot. There were about seven boats.
In 1977, according to Charlie Blair, 83 boats used to scallop in Cape Pogue. Back then, there was a five-bushel limit and with boats mostly two-handed, that was 10 bushels for each boat a day. Now the limit is three bushels and most everyone fishes single-handedly.
The Chappy book club met a couple of weeks ago and decided on True North by Jill Ker Conway as their next book. The next meeting time is yet to be determined.
Felicia Cheney, head librarian in Edgartown, has managed to keep her good humor despite the long-drawn-out dealings with the insurance company since the library furnace “puff-back” on Dec. 2. Plans are under way to remove the 28 computers and send the artwork off-Island for cleaning. Check the library Web site, edgartownlibrary.org, which Nis Kildegaard keeps updated, for news of the cleanup company negotiations.
The town plans to hold elections in the Baylies Room at the Whaling Church, so the library won’t be kicked out of the selectmen’s room. All the staff have made the room feel very homey, while continuing to provide most of the normal library services — with some unexpected perks, such as home-baked goodies and no fines. Felicia hopes to incorporate what people like about the temporary library into the new library design. She hopes to makes the original Carnegie building into sitting rooms again. Recently, the Edgartown Library Foundation, the nonprofit entity raising money for the library expansion, received a $50,000 matching grant from Vineyard Golf Club.
The Edgartown selectmen will hold a public meeting this coming Tuesday, Jan. 22, at 4:30 p.m. in the town hall second-floor meeting room regarding the transfer of the Chappy ferry ground lease and license from Roy Hayes, doing business as Edgartown Ferry Inc., to Peter Wells, doing business as Chappaquiddick Ferry Inc. Comments may be sent to the Edgartown selectmen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Nothing is official yet, but this is one of the final pieces. Stay tuned!