The Vineyard Grove Company was founded in 1868 by investors of the Oak Bluffs Methodist community to protect the Camp Ground from the secular activities of the new part of town built by the Oak Bluffs Land and Wharf Company. That part of town was rapidly peopled by folks looking for a place to play and not necessarily pray. By 1867 the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association had erected a seven-foot-high fence along the back of Circuit avenue to protect its people from the contamination of the soon-to-be damned newcomers.

Ever more worried by the encroachment and with the belief that the time had come to consider moving the 35 acre campgrounds still farther away, the Vineyard Grove Company acquired 55 acres to the northwest and named the area the Vineyard Highlands. By 1871 they had acquired additional acreage and built the Highland House Hotel to compete with the Oak Bluffs Land and Wharf Company’s Sea View House and offer an alternative to the less-than-worldly. In addition, they built their own wharf 1,000 yards away. Lake Anthony, today’s Oak Bluffs harbor, was enclosed back then and the Vineyard Grove Company built a 3,500-foot wooden boardwalk to accommodate their own bathhouses along the shoreline. When combined with the boardwalk lining Pay Beach and the Inkwell, Cottage City had over a mile of boardwalk on its easternmost shore.

Indeed, the wood planked boardwalk inspired a purely Oak Bluffs activity, “bluffing.” Bluffing was the act of couples strolling in the moonlight along the boardwalk to Lover’s Rock, the huge glacial boulder called an “erratic” that symbolically separated the two beaches. It is now buried and memorialized by a flat granite stone. Etta Godfrey wrote The Oak Bluffs Galop in 1872 to accompany the Victorian pastime of bluffing.

Good things coming to an end, as things are wont to do. The New York Times on May 3, 1885 published in a story that “the Sea View House and land with wharf adjoining, octagonal restaurant, 280 bathing houses, the land on which the skating rink and carousel are standing, and the entire shore of Oak Bluffs . . . were sold at auction, by order of William W. Crapo and Andrew Bullock, Trustees for the bondholders for $32,000.” Crapo and Bullock indeed, the Oak Bluffs Land and Wharf Company was overextended, upside down and out of business, their dream ended even as ours continues.

Our dreams were gratuitously bolstered upon last week’s announcement that, thanks to the efforts of our stalwart town administrator and guitar hero Bob Whritenour, the State Seaport Advisory chose Oak Bluffs as one of a few communities to receive $2 million to install a boardwalk once again extending from the steamship wharf to the harbor. Outstanding news and time for a bunch of us to stand up, get up and step up to maximize this blue moon opportunity.

The Oak Bluffs Historical Commission, the Copeland Plan Review Committee and the Cottage City Historic District Committee may want to host a joint meeting and possibly involve the Oak Bluffs Association and the Friends of Oak Bluffs — perhaps a historic meeting, but one equal to the dream. Don’t get me wrong — I’m happy and satisfied if a concrete walkway is the best we can do — but imagine a wide, wooden boardwalk on the North Bluff! One connecting our almost finished, new fishing pier. Walk from Lake avenue, along the harbor, past the Island Queen and tour busses to the spectacular beauty of Ocean Park and its Cottage City Historic District, back to the vibrancy of Circuit avenue and our stores and restaurants. And with appropriate signage, as Primo Lombardi correctly notes, not just pointing people to a shortcut from the steamship to tour buses out of town.

The Friends of Oak Bluffs website,, has a sample of the railing they propose for replacing the too short, rusted industrial looking one presently lining much of the shore from the steamship wharf almost to End of the Wall beach. Perhaps the railings will be purchased for the town by contributors just like our benches and light poles (except the ungainly ones along the beach that need replacement, as Renee Balter points out). For a start, wouldn’t these railings be attractive alongside a new wooden boardwalk, along with nicely framing Waban and Ocean Parks later on?

The United Methodist Church of Martha’s Vineyard hosts a holiday fair tomorrow in the Camp Ground at Trinity parish house with lots of stuff from food to advent calendars and ornaments and handmade gifts for all from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. They’re also having an Interfaith Service on Tuesday, Nov. 26 at 7 p.m.

Suesan Stovall and Jimmy Parr and friends played music for their birthdays last Friday at the Ritz with a small ensemble that all but burnt the house down. Those kids need to take that blues band on the road. Happiest again, you two!

Oak Bluffs’ shoreline view shows off sunrises and blue moons so close you think you could touch them. We should show off, too, by framing that setting with the simple majesty of the Friends of Oak Bluffs well thought-out and designed fence to line our beaches, Ocean Park, our harbor entrance and our new boardwalk. Too many asleep at the wheel are now wakened by the utility poles along Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road. The new boardwalk is exciting.

Wowsers, I’d love to drive that cool new OB police cruiser!

I hope you have something to express thankfulness for next Thursday.

Keep your foot on a rock.