In 1835 this community served as the site for annual summer camp meetings when
Methodist church groups found the groves and pastures of Martha’s Vineyard particularly
well suited to all-day gospel sessions.
Wesleyan Grove, as the Oak Bluffs Campground was called, rode the crest of the
religious revival movement. By the mid-1850s the Sabbath meetings here were drawing
congregations of 12,000 people. They came for the sunshine and sermonizing in hundreds
of individual church groups.
Each group had its own communal tent where the contingent bedded down in straw
purchased from local farmers. Services were held in a large central tent.
The communal tents gave way to “family tents,” which reluctant church authorities
granted only to “suitable” families. But the leisure urge could not be checked.
Family tents turned into wooden cottages, designed to look like tents. And the cottages
multiplied, trying to out-do each other in brightly painted fantasies of gingerbread.
A new all-steel Tabernacle structure replaced the big central tent in 1879; it stands
today as a fine memento of the age of ironwork architecture.
Within 40 years of the first camp meeting here, there were crowds of 30,000 attending
the Grand Illumination that marked the end of the summer season with a glorious
show of Japanese lanterns and fireworks.
Wesleyan Grove struggled to hold its own against such secular attractions as
ocean bathing, berry picking, walking in the woods, fishing, and croquet playing.
There were efforts to ban peddlers, especially book peddlers. A high picket fence
was built around the Campground proper. By the 1870s, Wesleyan Grove had expanded
into Cottage City and Cottage City had become the town of Oak Bluffs, with more
than 1,000 cottages.
Steam vessels from New York, Providence, Boston, and Portland continued to bring
more enthusiastic devotees of the Oak Bluffs way of life. Horse cars were used to
bring vacationers from the dock to the Tabernacle. The horse cars were later replaced
by a steam railroad that ran all the way to Katama. One of the first passengers
on the railroad was President Ulysses S. Grant. The railroad gave way to an electric
trolley from Vineyard Haven to the Oak Bluffs wharves, and the trolley eventually
gave way to the automobile.
Oak Bluffs is also the home of the Flying Horses Carousel, the oldest continuously
operating carousel in the country. Its horses were hand carved in New York City
in 1876. This historic landmark is maintained by the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation
Trust. It is open daily during the summer, and on weekends in the spring and fall.
Fire – To report a fire: 911
Wing Road Station: 508.693.0077
Police – To report an emergency: 911
To report urgency, but no emergency: 311
Alternate Emergency Number: 508.696.5776
Oak Bluffs Avenue Station: 508.693.0750
Oak Bluffs Town Hall
PO BOX 1327
Oak Bluffs 02557
Office hours: 8:30 am-4 pm.
Accountant – Karen Gomez
Animal Control Officer – Steven Connolly; 508.693.0857
Board of Selectmen – Kerry Scott, chair; Gregory A. Coogan; Ronald Diorio; Duncan Ross; Roger Wey; 508.693.6554
Collector of Taxes and Collector of Accounts – Cheryll A. Sashin; 508.693.5526
Constables – David Oliveira; Sharon Rzemien
Director of Emergency Management – Peter Martell
Fire Chief – Gilbert Forend; 508.693.0077
Fire Inspector –
Gas Inspector – Francis Kuszewski
Harbormaster – Todd Alexander; 508.693.9644
Herring Warden – David Grunden
Highway Department – 508.693.0072
Inspector of Buildings and Zoning – Jerry Weiner
Library – 508.693.9433
Moderator – David Richardson
Oil Burner Inspectors – Antone Ferreira
Plumbing Inspector – Francis Kuszewski
Police Chief – Erik G. Blake
School Department – 508.693.0951
Shellfish Constable – David Grunden
Smoke Detector Inspector – Dennis Alley
Town Administrator – Michael Dutton
Town Clerk – Deborah Ratcliff
Town Counsel – Ronald Rappaport
Town Moderator – David Richardson
Treasurer – Paul Manzi; asst. treasurer: Sharon Jackson
Tree Warden – Joseph M. deBettencourt
Veterans’ Agent – Joanne Murphy; 508.696.3841
Wastewater Commissioners – Richard D. Combra; Robert Iadicicco; Hans vonSteiger
Water District – 508.693.5527
Water District Commissioners – Michael S. deBettencourt; Kevin Johnson; Raymond Moreis, Jr
Water District Moderator – Duncan Ross; 508.693.5527
Wiring Inspectors – James Rogers; Peter Dawley
TOWN BOARDS, ETC.
Board of Assessors – Melanie Bilodeau; Jesse Law; Marie Allen
Board of Health – Patricia Bergeron; David Caron; William White
Board of Registrars – Deborah Ratcliff; Margaret Stafursky; Patricia Ingalls; Kathryn Collins
Cemetery Commissioners – Melanie M. Bilodeau; Jessie B. Law III; James Maseda
Conservation Commission – John Boardman; John Breckenridge; Robert G. Ford; Joan Hughes; Paul Strauss; Caleb Nicholson
Council on Aging – Diane Ball; Glenna Barkan; Patricia M. Dorsey; James McLaurin; Diane Wilson; Alternates: Linda Marinelli; Betsy Marshall; Curt Gear; 508.693.4509
Finance and Advisory Committee – Joseph Alosso; Douglas Best; Frank Case; Mimi Davisson; Thad Harshbarger; Peter Palches; Michael Perry; Douglas Best; Arthur McGrath Jr
Harbor Management Committee – Rene BenDavid; James J. Dorsey; David Pothier; Fred Sonnenberg; Barbara Ann Gibson; Stephen Morris
Historical Committee – Renee Balter; Pamela Melrose; Allison Shaw; Priscilla Sylvia; Susan Thompson; David Wilson; Joan Desautelle
Land Bank Advisory Committee – Melanie Bilodeau; Richard F. Coutinho; Elizabeth Durkee; Robert V. Hammett; Thomas Zinno; Polly Bassett; Richard Toole; Ann Margetson
Land Bank Commission – Priscilla Sylvia
Library Trustees – Karen Achilles; Richard Ball; Joan Desautelle; Bob Ford; S. David Wilson; Beatrice Green; Ann Ross
Martha’s Vineyard Commission – John Breckenridge; Mimi Davisson, Richard Toole
Park Commissioners – Richard Combra, Jr.; Allan A. deBettencourt; Michael Marchand
Personnel Board – Carl Green; Mimi Davisson; John Lolley
Planning Board – Erik Albert; John Bradford; David Wessling; James Westervelt; Kyle Fiore
Resident Homesite Comm. – Harvely Beth; Jim Rankin; Dean Taylor
Sailing Camp Park – 508.693.6777
School Committee – Judith Ann O’Donaghue; Priscilla Sylvia; Lisa Ann Reagan
Shellfish Committee – Paul Humber; Mark Landers; Joseph Leonardo III; Earl V. Peters; Raymond Moreis
Zoning Board of Appeals – Gail Barmakian; Jane E. Lofgren; Kris Chvatal; George Warren (alt); Nicholas Trentacost; Michael Underwood; Joseph Re (alt)