From the Nov. 19, 1937 edition of the Gazette:

Purchase of the steamboat wharf at Edgartown as a public park will be put before the voters at the annual town meeting in February, according to Winthrop B. Norton, chairman of the selectmen. Mr. Norton has been working for some time on the matter of obtaining the wharf for public use. This is one of the few remaining waterfront properties available for purchase, and should it be transferred by the steamboat company to other hands it might be lost, and the town virtually cut off from use of the waterfront on this side of the harbor, he pointed out.

Mr. Norton said yesterday that he had been in correspondence with the real estate department of the New Haven Railroad and had obtained assurance that the railroad will sell the wharf property to the town. No question of price has been discussed as yet. The wharf is assessed for $20,000.

If the wharf is bought for park purposes, Mr. Norton said, no special act of legislature will be needed. In outlining the plan to be brought before the town, Mr. Norton said he thought the present wood deck of the wharf should be removed, and bulkheads placed, with permanent fill inside. The wharf is now in serious disrepair, and reconstruction in the manner suggested will obviate future repair work. When the property is filled, a large part of the area can be seeded and turned into an attractive park which will be widely used by the public, especially on such occasions as the regattas and visits of the mainland yacht clubs.

A fill of gravel or rock dust near the bulkheads can be arranged to suit the needs of the fishing vessels using the wharf for landing purposes, Mr. Norton said. Spiles driven outside the bulkheads will provide for mooring vessels and boats. Taking the wharf for park purposes, he said, is the simplest step under the law, and will in no way interfere with future development if the town so desires in the future.

Mr. Norton said he intended to try for state aid for the work of reconstruction if the town votes favorably on the purchase.

Details of the reconstruction of the wharf offer considerable possibilities. Benches or seats may be placed on the area seeded, and provisions may be made for cars and for the landing of nest and other gear from boats.

The situation at this time is favorable for the step, and if the opportunity is neglected now it may not come again, Mr. Norton said.

At present the town owns little waterfront. The town has the ferry slip at the foot of Daggett street, and the piece of beach at the foot of Fuller street. Virtually all other waterfront on this side of the harbor is privately owned and controlled.

No matter how times have changed and may change, the Island wharves have been and will be vital points in the focus of Vineyard life and culture. They are but only utilities, in the broadest sense, but also instruments of civilization. They served as portals to the new wealth and the main influence upon our character and way of living. They are still our portals now that fishing, yachting and travel are the uses to which we put our tides, and the manner in which we are made subject to their salty influence.

To some communities an oil derrick may be a symbol, to others a mine shaft, and to others the upturned soil itself. TO us the wharf is an emblem of what we have been and will be. These reflections are prompted by the proposal that the town of Edgartown purchase the steamboat wharf at that place.

The oldest maps and prints show some of the Island wharves in the exact locations the present structures occupy. Vineyard Haven has had a wharf in the same place for a great many years, and it has served for many important purposes. The Oak Bluffs wharf, largest and most elaborate on the Vineyard, was built in the boom times following the Civil War, against the judgment of practical men who said it would never stand, and rebuilt in 1929. At that same period came the New York wharf and the Highland wharf. Both are now gone, although the East Chop Beach Club pier is a successor to the latter.

The old Norris wharf at Eastville, scene of ship chandlery and other maritime operations, is almost forgotten. This was the original camp meeting landing, and the first place of entry for Oak Bluffs. Other wharves of the same type have also disappeared with the years.

The Edgartown steamboat wharf is designated on the Walling map of 1857 as the Dr. Fisher or steamboat wharf. The steamboats landed there, but the whole wharf property was owned by Dr. Daniel Fisher and used in connection with his oil business, once the largest in the world. Here whaleships landed and oil refining sheds stood. There were rope walks and salt works close by. The wharf property was sold in the late eighties - 1889, if we are correct - and since then has been owned by the steamboat company. Now, it seems, there is a good chance that it may be acquired by the town and go on in new guise into the future.

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox