The ebullience of the advertisement in the Vineyard Gazette of Sept. 5, 1873 missed no opportunity for hyperbole in describing the opportunity of ownership in the new Bellevue Heights development at Eastville. Running for three months, the ad described the gently undulating slope towards the water, the fine views of the shipping passage of Vineyard Sound and the exceedingly healthy air, tempered by the sea breeze, which is always cool and healthy.

One part I particularly enjoyed was the comparative notion of the ‘entire freedom from conventionalities of the more pretentious watering places,’ an appellation true to this day. Replete with a poem; “There is a pleasure in the pathless woods; there is a rapture on the lonely shore; there is society where none intrude, by the deep sea, and music in its roar,” the advertisement entreated buyers with the claim of the high moral character of its residents. One is reminded that the Eastville neighborhood had earned the nickname of the Barbary Coast. On reflection, the homes on the 921 tastefully laid out lots measuring 50 to 100 feet would have removed the woods, pathless or not, and certainly reduced the roar of the sea.

Bellevue Heights was one of 18 Oak Bluffs sub-divisions being advertised in 1873. Developer Tarleton Cadwallader Luce had ambitiously also planned building an opera house on the property at an unspecified location. Keeping the magnitude of Luce’s plan in perspective, the Oak Bluffs Land and Wharf Company had paid $1,242 in taxes compared with Luce’s $522. Tarleton Cadwallader Luce, born in Edgartown in 1822, was married to Martha Daggett Luce in 1854 and they had a son William Cristant Luce who was born in 1864.

In fact, America’s economic malaise was nothing but bad news for “TC” Luce, as he called himself. Sometime after the failure of Bellevue Heights, legend has it that Luce was spirited away from Oak Bluffs on a boat one night either from embarrassment or, more than likely, to avoid payment of his obligations to debtors, one of whom was surely Shubael L. Norton who he acquired the land from. Captain Norton evidently took the former Luce house and had it moved to a new location where it is today, at 29 Laurel avenue in the Highlands.

There is substantial evidence that Tarleton Cadwallader Luce removed himself, or had assistance in removing himself, to California to the small town of White Rock, about 20 miles to the northeast of Sacramento. There he, his wife and son lived with his mother, Prudence. He is said to have taken up carpentry for an occupation and was apparently divorced from Martha before his death, believed to have been between 1882 and 1892.

Hope you’ve seen the Foot Locker television commercial featuring Oak Bluffs’ budding actor Grant Meacham. It received attention from ESPN’s Steven Smith recently, it’s hysterical.

Remember that Featherstone Center for the Arts has handmade gifts by Island artists available until Dec. 18 and is open from noon to 4 p.m. As the internet slowly lays waste to the pagan holiday of Black Friday in place of Small Business Saturday, please support Circuit avenue in your gift giving plans this weekend. C’est la Vie, Third World Trading, the Lazy Frog, Driftwood, Vera & Alex’s children’s clothing and Sanctuary are a few of the shops open this weekend and offering season ending discounts. The success of each of these high quality businesses can lead to fewer T-shirt shops in the future.

It’s that most wonderful time of the year and the Oak Bluffs Association’s Tree Lighting celebration at Post Office Square celebration begins at 6:30 p.m. next Wednesday, Nov. 30. Christmas carols, music from the Vineyard Classic Brass and Brian Weiland, hot chocolate and a Santa visit help start the holiday season. Please bring food to donate to the Island Food Pantry and take special notice of the window display at the MV Gourmet Bakery, this year decorated by Holly Alaimo.

Huge thanks to Crossland Nursery for the festive decorations all about town—and particularly Ocean Park, which appears decorated by Currier & Ives.

Keep your foot on a rock.

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