Wednesday, November 10, 2010

In The Cottage City

Campground Porch, 2010

Surrounding the Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts Tabernacle that I wrote about yesterday is a community of several hundred narrow cottages arranged in concentric circles and winding paths around Trinity Park. Most of them are seasonal residences that started out as tents and morphed over time into hard-sided sheds and eventually fully enclosed structures.

Many of the cottages have been in the same families for many generations. Each summer they return and figure out how to cram new generations of grandchildren and great grandchildren into the eaves.

Most of the cottages have a simple floor plan that features a living room and kitchen downstairs and a single bedroom and bath up a steep and narrow ladder stairs. Over the years, some of the cottages have been bumped up and out a little. But the campground lots are so narrow and shallow that those who want to make more personalized statements with their cottages have to make do with paint and superficial decorations.

The Pepto House, 2010

For a community originally established by fundamental Christians, it seems a little ironic that the campground has evolved into such a colorful collection of residences. I don’t know what the chaste revivalists of the 1800s would say about this. But today the brightly colored cottages are a popular tourist attraction.

The highlight of the summer season is Illumination Night, when residents turn off electric lights, hang illuminated Chinese lanterns from the rafters of their porches and join in a concert and songfest in the Tabernacle. It’s a wonderful sight that’s been going on for over a hundred years. It’s real Americana (but not of the Palin sort).

Windows Pay Respect, 2010

Despite all of the forgoing, I’ve found that a little bit of Cottage City goes a long way with me. Every time we visit Martha’s Vineyard I take a walk in the campgrounds. But I find I overdose quickly on all the cutesy curlicues and mishmash of contrasting colors. On our recent trip there I decided I needed to get past that and give the Cottage City a little more respect. I didn’t have much time, and still find that I have to take the Campground in small doses. But over time I hope I’ll give it a fair shake.

Campground Color, 2010

One of the Few "Big" Campground Houses, 2010


  1. The narrow shallow lots reminds me of growing up in Chic's Beach where some very odd looking houses resulted from additions being added on over the years.

    "It’s real Americana (but not of the Palin sort)." With those eagle eyes capable of seeing Russia from her house we could have used her in LA when that missile launch that wasn't a missile launch was spotted.

  2. Ooooh, more great photos! I love the name the Pepto House.