They say that the eyes are the window to the soul. But you could say the same about a home, especially the special homes that are on the 2015 Cottagers House Tour which will be held Thursday, July 16, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Oak Bluffs. The personalities behind these varied and captivating properties are just inviting as the homes themselves.

Those on the tour will be treated to historical homes and sites of historic events, sparkling renovations and a wine tasting hosted by Ron and Charlayne Hunter-Gault who bring their love of South Africa and their own varietals to their daughter Suesan’s Groovy Sue Gallery.

Porches with a view. — Jeanna Shepard

The Cottagers is a philanthropic organization made up of about 100 women of color who are property owners on Martha’s Vineyard. The organization has worked for more than half a century on a multitude of fundraising efforts. Recipients of their largess include the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, Windemere Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Oak Bluffs police department, Oak Bluffs Public Library, the Council on Aging, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School scholarships, plus selected programs for women and nonprofit agencies.

In addition, the Cottagers organize the annual African-American Cultural Festival (July 30–31) and the Cottagers’ Youth Programs and have participated in the ongoing Inkwell Beach clean-up.

Advance tickets may be purchased in Oak Bluffs at the Cousen Rose Gallery and C’est La Vie, both on Circuit avenue. Tickets may also be purchased on the day of the tour at Cottagers’ Corner, beginning at 10 a.m. The cost is $30 per person. Visit for more information.

2 Narragansett Avenue
Valerie Mosley

The bronze African American Heritage Trail plaque attached to the front of this spectacular 4,590 square-foot home announces to all that you are entering a special place. Named Villa Rosa after owner Valerie Mosley’s paternal grandmother, the lavish wood interior warmly exudes Rose Mosley’s lasting legacy to “make everyone feel welcome.”

Villa Rose, 2 Narragansett Avenue. — Jeanna Shepard

During the height of the 1960s civil rights campaigns, luminaries welcomed there included Harry Belafonte, Adam Clayton Powell, Joe Louis and Malcolm X. The third-floor billiard table where Dr. Martin Luther King played billiards is still there.

Located at the corner of Oceanside and Narragansett avenues, Villa Rosa was built circa 1870 by the Oak Bluffs Land and Wharf Company and was immediately heralded as “one of the most exquisite examples of a Victorian seaside mansion in the Northeast.”

Notable original features include double-front doors with stained glass, floor-to-ceiling windows opening up to its many porches, painstakingly restored oak detail in the floors, walls and ceilings, plus five fireplace mantels and numerous built-in cabinets.

A lively mural added by the previous owners wraps up around the staircase walls and spills onto the second-floor landing.

26 Greenleaf Avenue
Sissy and Kelsey Biggers

When Kelsey and Sissy Biggers purchased 26 Greenleaf from the Massachusetts Land Court in January 2013 for $710,000, they looked upon a property in a promising location, but in “complete disarray.” They contacted “philosopher contractor” Bill Reagan and embarked upon a full renovation, leaving only the footprint and some of the original floor remaining.

Light, open, and airy perch at 26 Greenleaf avenue has been fully renovated. — Jeanna Shepard

The result is a light, open and airy perch that looks down over Sunset Lake, Oak Bluffs Harbor and Nantucket Sound. Where before a tired and neglected structure dared one to enter, now there is a seashell driveway, stone retaining wall and handsome brick path leading up to a reinvented home. With six bedrooms and 3.5 baths, it is casual and very family friendly.

Built in 1904 in the Camp Ground style, the house is marked by its second-story porch off the master bedroom that affords long views of the Sound and the rising sun. The first floor features a not-so-Camp-Ground-like open-style living room kitchen/dining area that brings in light from all sides.

French doors open to a veranda and sunny sitting area outside. On the walls of the living room hang paintings of the cottage commissioned by Sissy, who owns an art gallery in Connecticut. After purchasing and renovating 89 Ocean avenue at the top of Ocean Park in 1998, the Biggers now have a second success story at 26 Greenleaf avenue.

19 Ocean Park
Archie Smith and Shirley Truman-Smith

The Copeland District of Oak Bluffs experienced a building boom beginning in 1868 and Shirley Truman-Smith’s comfortable Victorian was built during the excitement in 1875. Builder Paul Fantasia oversaw a major restoration in 2004, turning a two-family residence into an accommodating 11-room home with six bedrooms (and a loft) and 3.5 baths.

House at 14 Trinity Park has been owned by the same family for almost 100 years. — Jeanna Shepard

The home is often enjoyed by three generations who love the accessibility of all that Oak Bluffs offers without having to step in a car. The grandchildren especially love the spontaneity that is possible with Ocean Park right out the front door and the beach and Circuit avenue a short walk away. Views and convenience are what living on Ocean Park is all about, says Mrs. Truman-Smith. She and Mr. Smith are first-generation homeowners on Martha’s Vineyard.

The couple was still making improvements to their home in the month leading up to the 2015 tour. Visitors will see a brand new beadboard ceiling above the front porch when tour begins Thursday morning, July 16.

14 Trinity Park
Sandra and Richard Crowley  

What could be better than owning a cottage in the Camp Ground? How about three? That’s what distinguishes the historic home at 14 Trinity which will celebrate being owned by the same family for 100 years in 2016. Two of the current owners, brother/sister Sandra Van Ness and Richard Crowley, can trace their Vineyard roots back seven generations.

The 11-room home is actually three Camp Ground cottages whose conjoining floorboards indicate where the cottages were bound together. The first runs from the front door to the entrance of the dining room. The second is at a right angle to the first and includes the dining room and a downstairs bedroom as well as two upstairs bedrooms. The third includes the pantry, kitchen, laundry and lattice area as well as upstairs bathroom, rear bedroom and rear stairway.

Unlike other homes on the 2015 Cottagers tour, 14 Trinity has not been extensively renovated. Instead, it is a place where time proudly stands still and where every board and wall reflects the owners’ love of tradition, family history and joyful memories. The majority of the furnishings have been in the house for more than a century.

9 Spruce Street
Suesan Stovall

When Ron Gault, Suesan Stovall’s stepfather and husband of Charlayne Hunter-Gault, was assigned to open an office for JP Morgan in Johannesburg in 1995, he wasn’t prepared to be smitten. ”We fell in love with South Africa,” he said, “and we fell in love with their wines.”

9 Spruce street, the Groovy Sue Gallery, will be the site of a wine tasting. — Jeanna Shepard

The surprising attraction resulted in the creation of Passages, the Gaults’ own wine label for which they have been producing wine for more than a decade. The grapes they use come from South Africa’s Western Cape region, world-renowned for its ideal climate and nutrient-rich soil.

Passages offers four varietals — Merlot, Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay — and visitors to Sue Stovall’s Groovy Sue Gallery at 9 Spruce street can get a taste. The gallery is set in a converted garage and features Ms. Stovall’s assemblage and collage created from found items picked up all over the Island.

Intimate groups of six will hear a brief talk by both Ron and Charlayne Hunter-Gault on today’s business climate and then will enjoy tasting the four varietals.