Squat, homely, utilitarian. Unloved could be added to the adjectives that poured out this week when the old Steamship Authority terminal in Woods Hole succumbed to the giant claw of a loader truck. On Monday afternoon demolition began on the white cinderblock structure that has served as the terminal office since 1961. By Thursday the building had been reduced to a pile of rubble.

The building dates to the 1950s and was once part of a railway station, during an era when trains ran all the way down to Woods Hole, the land’s end where steam-propelled ferries with names like Nobska and Naushon plied the watery routes to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

A romantic image, although for most Islanders today, the Woods Hole terminal building held little in the way of romance. It was the place where for the past fifty seven years they had dashed in to buy their tickets, use the rest room or wait for the next boat with dogs and children in tow.

But if the building lacked charm, for Vineyarders it was still a friend and a stopping place on the road home — their only road home, as the late Edmond Coogan, a Vineyard selectman and statesman once said, describing the relationship between Islanders and their ferries.

Most people were unaware that the second floor of the terminal building also housed the administrative offices for the Steamship Authority. Those offices recently relocated to Falmouth in a new building near the Palmer avenue parking lot.

The new offices are no doubt much nicer and better equipped than the cramped warren of rooms that occupied the top floor of the old terminal building. But they will always be missing something — the view across the choppy waters of Woods Hole, its waters dotted with Coast Guard and marine research vessels, Martha’s Vineyard in the distance across Vineyard Sound. Until very recently, Steamship Authority senior managers never needed a schedule to know when the ferry was due in or due to leave: they could watch it in real time from their office windows.

That’s all lost to history now, as the boat line that is the Island’s lifeline embarks on a five-year, sixty million-dollar renovation and expansion on the waterfront that will include a new terminal building and new ferry slips.

The new infrastructure is intended to carry the Steamship Authority well into the future.

And no matter what kind of terminal is there, as Islanders were reminded this week during back-to-back storms, the experience of being stranded when ferries are cancelled remains universal.

In an editorial in 1963, the Gazette wrote about the village of Woods Hole after some Islanders were stranded there overnight when ferries were cancelled in a gale:

“By day Woods Hole is filled with science. The air crackles with higher mathematics. By night it is subject to the mocking of goblins and witches whose voices sound like the wind. No wonder they lock their doors in Woods Hole at sundown or soon after, and no wonder the wayfarers, Vineyard bound, who cannot find accommodations . . . are afflicted as outcasts through nights that, at whatever season, are always the longest nights of the year.”

Farewell to the old Woods Hole terminal.