The following is excerpted from an oral history interview done with Edward W. Brooke by Linsey Lee of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum in August of 2007. Mr. Brooke was on the Vineyard promoting his autobiography Bridging the Divide: My Life.

I first came to Martha’s Vineyard — it’s just clear in my mind, that day when I came across on the ferry — with my wife and our newborn child. And we stayed with a family, Lionel and Edna Lindsay. They lived in Oak Bluffs. We stayed as their guests, I guess for a weekend or something.

I just thought I’d found heaven on earth. I found peace. It was the first vacation I’d taken since I came home from the war in ’46, because I’d started up my practice and had a child and all that sort of thing. And I’d never gone on vacation. I’d go home to see my parents once in a while, but not on a vacation, of course. So it was the first vacation. I never knew it existed. I was in Boston, living in Roxbury, practicing law there, and came to visit them. I had been elected first vice president of the NAACP and he was president, Lindsay was. And he invited me down here. I fell in love with it.

Humphrey’s Bakery where they made the best oatmeal. Everett Poole’s fish and clams and things that I discovered that I’d never even eaten before. The cliffs, the different colors of the clay. I had a friend who went to Dunbar High School with me in Washington — her name was Helen Vanderhoop. She married a Manning up here. Well, she was a classmate of mine at Dunbar High School. She talked about it, but it never dawned [on me] that I would ever actually see it or come here.

And there was very little traffic around. I mean, it was idyllic. I loved the wild flowers. I used to pick the wild flowers in the dump, [and] tomatoes in the dump because they grew out there so profusely. And the Flying Horses which every father and mother experience. I always said it cost me more for the Flying Horses than it did for the property I bought at the time. The bandstand concerts I delighted in. I used to go over to the cottages in the old Campgrounds. The Tabernacle. And in later years I got somewhat active in the restoration of that with the people when I came up here. When I got into politics, I used to go to big, big meetings that they had at the Tabernacle.

My mother and I used to sit on the seawall, eat ice cream and see the moon come up over the water. I remember the cold water, particularly, in the early part of the summer, which I learned to live with and enjoy and found exhilarating. South Beach, the Dunes. I could go on and on. I can name so many places I enjoyed. I enjoyed all the towns. Edgartown had its own [style]. Though at that time some of the clubs were segregated. I couldn’t join the country club, and that’s when I bought the property on Nashawena Park.

Because I had a home, [it was] mainly to have a place for gathering for our friends. Because we couldn’t go to the country club. And we had a little bar there, and a Nickelodeon. They’d just come and sit around the expansive porch and talk. It was a meeting place.

I was living on Canonicus avenue, and just out walking as I did every morning around the water, everywhere, [when] I came across this place which was all grown up and what-not. I sort of peered in. It was dirty, dusty and rodents and everything were there. It had been abandoned, so to speak. So I got busy, went to the Dukes County Registry, found out who owned it and called the lady. Her name was Anna Jeffers and she lived in Texas.

Anyway, I told her I was interested in buying her property, and she said, “Why?” And I said, “Oh, several reasons. I’m social, but I also love restoring old houses, and you’ve got a beautiful piece of property here as I’m sure you’re well aware. And nothing would give me greater pleasure.”

She said, “Are you in that business?” I said, “No, I’m a fledgling lawyer.” She said, “Well, you sound like a nice young man, we’ll talk about it. Maybe I’ll see you in Boston.”

I thought, well this is the end of that conversation. Pray and behold she turned up, drove her Cadillac — she was in her 80s — from Texas to Boston. I was in my office in Pemberton Square. She came upstairs and I didn’t know what to expect. I certainly didn’t expect an 80-some-year-old lady to come up the steps. Anyway, she came upstairs and she said, “Oh, you’re a real young man.” I said, “Well, I’m just a fledgling lawyer. I think I gave you my age.”

She said, “Now tell me again, why do you want this house?” I said, “You know, I’d like to get a place where . . .” I don’t know if I used the word at that time, Negro. We didn’t use African-Americans, there are changes in that. But at any rate, she said, “Well, what are you prepared to offer me?” And I said, “Maybe $18,000?”

She said, “I beg your pardon?” And I said, “$18,000.”

After she recovered, she said, “Well, you don’t want to buy the house. You want me to give it to you.” And I said, “Well, I didn’t quite think about it like that. I was telling you what I could possibly pay for it.” And she said, just as an aside, “And how would you pay that, if you don’t have any money?” I said, “Well, I thought I would put up $3,000 and you would take back a mortgage of $15,000.”

Well, to make a long story short, she laughed, and she said, “All right. I’m going to do that. That probably shocks you, but I’m of a certain age. I don’t expect to come back to live in it. My nephew wants the garage and what-not.”

I said, “Oh, I wanted the garage. I don’t want someone to share the property.” She said, “Well, you know, come to think of it, I think he’s just waiting for me to die, anyway.” And she said, “He rarely ever calls me. Throw that in.”

So the property I bought was the main house on Nashawena, the ballroom, which is the only ballroom on Martha’s Vineyard, I think, to this day. They had a bridge between the first house and the ballroom. And all the land over there where the Barmakians have put up all those houses. All of that was included, for $18,000.

That was Ms. Jeffers. We corresponded. She said, “I’d love to come and see what you’ve done with the house, but my health just won’t allow it.” But, she said, “It’s been a real joy and pleasure knowing you and working with you and getting this done. Don’t you worry, you’re going to succeed.”

So I got a bit of inspiration in it as well for the $18,000. I got more than that house. And I loved it.