Oak Bluffs on the Vineyard

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A really fun day trip is to take the Island Queen ferry from Falmouth MA to Martha’s Vineyard-this particular ferry drops you in Oak Bluffs. Here is some history of the town:

Oak Bluffs was first settled by Europeans in 1642 and was part of Edgartown until 1880, when it was officially incorporated as Cottage City. Oak Bluffs was the only one of the six towns on the island to be consciously planned, and the only one developed specifically with tourism in mind.
In 1866 Robert Morris Copeland was hired by a group of New England developers to design a planned residential community in Martha’s Vineyard. The site, a large, rolling, treeless pasture overlooking Vineyard Sound, was adjacent to the immensely popular Methodist camp meeting, Wesleyan Grove, a curving network of narrow streets lined with quaint “Carpenter’s Gothic” cottages, picket fences, and pocket parks. Seeking to take advantage of the camp’s seasonal popularity (and overflowing population), the developers established Oak Bluffs Land and Wharf Company, gaining immediate success: Five hundred lots were sold between 1868 and 1871. Copeland would end up creating three plans for the community to accommodate its constant expansion. Oak Bluffs is the one of the earliest planned residential communities and largely informed later suburban development in the United States.
Some of the earliest visitors to the area that became Cottage City and later Oak Bluffs were Methodists, who gathered in the oak grove each summer for multi-day religious “camp meetings” held under large tents and in the open air. As families returned to the grove year after year, tents pitched on the ground gave way to tents pitched on wooden platforms and eventually to small wooden cottages. Small in scale and closely packed, the cottages grew more elaborate over time. Porches, balconies, elaborate door and window frames became common, as did complex wooden scrollwork affixed to the roof edges as decorative trim. The unique “Carpenter’s Gothic” architectural style of the cottages was often accented by the owner’s use of bright, multi-hue paint schemes, and gave the summer cottages a quaint, almost storybook look. Dubbed “gingerbread cottages,” they became a tourist attraction in their own right in the late nineteenth century. So, too, did the Tabernacle: a circular, open-sided pavilion covered by a metal roof supported by tall wrought iron columns, erected in the late 1880s, which became a venue for services and community events. The campground’s gingerbread cottages are cherished historic landmarks as well as very expensive real estate. Many are still family owned and passed on generation to generation. On April 5, 2005, the grounds and buildings in the Campground were designated a National Historic Landmark by the Secretary of the Interior.
Nineteenth-century tourists, arriving by steamer from the mainland, could also choose from a wide range of secular attractions: shops, restaurants, ice cream parlors, dance halls, band concerts, walks along seaside promenades, or swims in the waters of Nantucket Sound. In 1884, the Flying Horses Carousel was brought to Oak Bluffs from Coney Island and installed a few blocks inland from the ocean, where it remains in operation today. Built in 1876, it is the oldest platform carousel still in operation. Like the grounds and buildings of the Campground (so designated in April 2005), the Flying Horses were designated a National Historic Landmark by the Secretary of the Interior.

Bridal Shower History

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Having just given a bridal shower for a very dear friend’s daughter this weekend with a couple of friends and the bride’s sister,I started wondering what the history is of bridal showers. This is what I found out:

Bridal showers in the earlier eras were very different from what they are today. The modern-day celebration of this old custom is marked with fun, fiesta, food and favors, and sums up as one complete farewell bash for the bride. However, bridal showers weren’t one such gala affair in the past.
This custom, which traces its roots and origin back to 16th century Holland, was initiated as an alternative to the dowry system, where friends and families brought small favors for the bride to help her begin with her married life. If the mother of the bride was too poor to afford a dowry, or if the father was opposed to the alliance, then the friends of the bride would bring her small gifts to make up for the dowry and help her walk down the aisle with the man of her choice.
In fact, there is a very interesting Dutch legend on bridal showers, which narrates the story of a young Dutch girl of high standing who fell in love with a miller’s son. She was so smitten by the young lad that she wanted to marry him, even though her family was opposed to the alliance owing to the boy’s poor standing. Her father wanted her to marry a wealthy pig farmer and threatened to withhold her dowry if she disobeyed him. However, when her friends and the village folks learned about it, they insisted on bringing her gifts to fill in for the dowry and help her begin her married life. It’s said that the father of the bride was so touched by this sweet gesture that he agreed to the marriage and also dished out a hefty dowry to bless the new couple. Since then, it has been a custom for the would-be-brides family and friends to shower her with gifts before she embarks on a new journey, namely -marriage.
Bridal showers became a part of elite United States culture in the late Victorian Era, when ladies of high social standing organized bridal showers to fete would be brides. These ladies held bridal showers, regardless of the need of the bride, to gather and gossip and exchange thoughts, ideas and have fun. Plus, the brides didn’t mind getting a few special items to mark off their new roles as wives either.
Although a bridal shower was an alien custom to the English, it became quite a rage in USA during the 1930s. The bridal showers of the early to mid 20th Century were simpler affairs as compared to their modern day avatars. Gifts were more modest and usually included a collection of kitchen implements, a single plate, table linen etc.

Thoreau’s Cape Cod

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In 1849-1857 Henry David Thoreau took 4 trips to the area called Cape Cod. As George Howe Colt points out in his book “The Big House” Thoreau is the first person to pronounce living near the sea to be a therapeutic thing to do! Up until then only fishermen lived near the sea and it was not considered desirable.

Here is an excerpt from Howe’s book-“In 1849 the notion of voluntarily traveling to Cape Cod to see the ocean -without planning to fish,build a ship,go whaling,or scavenge a wreck-would not have occurred to anyone except,perhaps,a man who had spent two years gazing into a small,dark pond. Cape Codders considered shorefront land nearly worthless.Cape Codders would have snorted if someone had told them their most valuable resource lay in those serene bluffs and forbidding shores. But Thoreau knew better-” the time must come when this coast will be a place of resort for those New Englanders who really wish to visit the seashore.” In July of 1872,the Old Colony Railroad completed an extension down the east shoreline of Buzzards Bay to Woods Hole. Over the next twenty years,the Old Cape Cod was overlaid with the new.”

This is very interesting to me on a personal note as our area in Falmouth was started exactly then-the first six cottages went up in the late 1870’s. Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard and many other communities sprung up at this time-many of them,such as ours, were originally camping grounds for church-related activities and renewal. In fact, when you buy a house in our area the lots are designated as “tent lots”!

It Ain’t Easy Picking Greens,continued

Here is another favorite green.This one is made by C2 Paints and is called Saguaro (4094). There is also (not pictured)  Wasabi(4080)made by C2.While Saguaro has some blue tone in it,Wasabi has a bit of yellow. I have used both for family rooms,living rooms,mudrooms and kitchens for different clients.

Lamp Shades-Joan Peters’ Toiles

These toile prints are adorable on lamp shades. They come in many colors and are of Boston,Nantucket ,Cape Cod or Martha’s Vineyard. We can make any shape or size for you at Concord Lamp and Shade in Concord MA. Joan Peters is out of Osterville,MA on the Cape and is famous for her fabrics which are all original.

End of Summer

End of summer-a very melancholy time in everyone’s life.Whether you have been at a beach house,a mountain house,had vacations or stayed at home it still signals the end of a season and one that most people treasure.

I have a favorite book for this time of year.I don’t read the whole book but I do always read the first few pages. It is called” The Big House” and is written by George Howe Colt. He says it so perfectly for at least those who of us who are headed back home after a wonderful summer. “After gorging on summer for three months,the house has gone into hibernation.They call it the off-season,as if there were a switch in the cellar,next to the circuit breakers,that one flipped to plunge the house from brimming to empty,warm to cold,noisy to silent,light to dark”.

Howe talks about history-families who come back to a house year after year,decade after decade.He has a wonderful passage about coming in June and finding things just as they were from the summer before:”a striped beach towel tossed on the washing machine, a half-empty shampoo bottle wedged in the wooden slats of the outdoor shower,a fishing lure on the living room mantle, a half-burned log in the fireplace,a sprinkling of sand behind the kitchen door.”

These pictures are of a house called “The Oyster House”. It is a small house,right near a pond. The son has since built a beautiful house in front of it towards the road but kept his father’s beloved smaller house. His father was quite a collector-reputedly even strapping items he found onto the wings of his small plane. I love,in particular, the wall of doors-ones that he found interesting and put up to create a wall in his bedroom. It was indeed his very special place to return to every year.

Blowin’ in the breeze curtains

These curtains are wonderful -inexpensive,easy to clean(wash and dry) and to me say summer and relaxation.

They are called narrow ruffle,perma-press in white and can be ordered at Country Curtains.

Ideas for Beds-Summer House

Here are some ideas for summer sleeping!

The first is a bunk bed,made by the builder for a house on the Vineyard. What I loved was the rungs on the side to scramble up to the top bunk. I thought it was all very nicely done.

The second example is a set of twin beds on these big red wheels. This is so clever-the beds can be moved around easily to create a double bed or two singles. Great idea for the many visitors with different needs that arrive in the summertime!