Oak Bluffs

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.

Town Government

Ambulance: 508.693.5380
– To report a fire dial 911
Wing Road Station: 508.693.0077

– To report an emergency dial 911
To report urgency, but no emergency dial 311
Lake Avenue Station: 508.693.0750

Oak Bluffs Town Hall

PO BOX 1327
Oak Bluffs 02557
Office hours: 8:30 am-4:00 pm

If no direct number is listed please contact the town hall or website.

Town Officials

Accountant –508.693.3554 ext. 100

Ambulance Coordinator –508.693.0077

Animal Control Officer/Inspector of Animals –508.693.0857

Board of Selectmen –508.693.3554 ext. 114

Collector of Taxes and Collector of Accounts – 508.693.3554, ext. 107

Conservation Agent –508.693.3554 ext. 118


Council of Aging Director –508.693.4509

Director of Emergency Management

Fire Chief -508.693.0077

Fire Inspector –508.693.0077

Gas Inspector – 508.693.3554 ext. 132

Harbormaster –508.693.4355

Health Agent –508-693-3554 ext. 116

Herring Warden –508-693-0072

Highway Department – 508.693.0072

Highway Superintendant –508.693.0072

Inspector of Buildings – 508-693-3554 ext. 121

Land Bank Commissioner

Librarian –508-693-3554 ext. 141

Library – 508.693.9433

Marina Manager –508-693-4355

Oil Burner Inspector –508-693-0077

Plumbing Inspector – 508-693-3554 ext. 132

Police Chief –508-693-0750

Principal Assessor – 508-693-3554 ext. 104

Propane Tank Inspector

Sailing Camp Park Supervisor –508-693-6777

School Department – 508.693.0951

Shellfish Constable –508-693-0072

Smoke Detector Inspector – 508-693-0077

Town Administrator

Town Clerk –508-693-3554 ext. 119

Town Counsel –508-627-3711

Town Moderator

Treasurer –508-693-3554 ext. 112

Assistant Treasurer –508-693-3554 ext. 102

Tree Warden – 508-693-0072

Veterans’ Agent –508.696.3841

Wastewater Commissioners

Wastewater Superintendant -508-693-0343

Water Superintendent – 508-693-5527

Water District – 508.693.5527

Water District Commissioners

Water District Moderator -508.693.5527

Wiring Inspectors –508-693-3554

Zoning Administrator – 508-693-3554 ext. 123

Town Boards, Etc.

Affordable Housing Committee

Board of Assessors

Board of Health

Board of Registrars

Capital Improvement Plan Committee

Cemetery Commissioners

Community Preservation Act Committee

Conservation Commission

Copeland Plan Review Board

Cottage City Historic District Commission

Council on Aging

Energy Committee

Finance and Advisory Committee

Harbor Management Committee

Historical Commission

Historical Committee

Land Bank Advisory Committee

Land Bank Commission

Library Trustee

Martha’s Vineyard Commission Representatives

Parks Commission

Personnel Board

Planning Board

Resident Homesite Committee

Sailing Camp Park – 508.693.6777

School Committee

Shellfish Committee

Sign Review Committee

Water District Commission

Zoning Board of Appeals