Katama Shells, 2005
Another turn of the screw.
Word reached us this week that property at Martha’s Vineyard owned by a very distant relative, the remaining wooded parcel of what was once a grand family estate, has been subdivided. The rustic little shack of a cottage where we used to stay is being replaced by two McMansions.
I’m sure the new places will be quite grand. You don’t pay millions for a piece of property and then keep an old skunk-ridden shack on it. From the look of the construction so far, they’ll be your classic sprawling Robert A.M. Stern-like shingle style residences, the kind that’ll set you back $30,000 or $40,000 just to rent for a week or two in the summer.
I can understand the pressures on the distant relative to take some action regarding the property. Her annual real estate taxes for roughly a dozen wooded acres and the ancient hot dog stand-turned cottage were said to be on the order of $50,000. She wanted to keep the property in the family. But faced with the need to keep the place leased out every possible moment during the summer rental season just to pay the taxes, the wisdom of that dream probably started to seem questionable to the children and grandchildren who never knew a time when the old summer cottage they’d grown up with was just a tool shed for the old estate’s “big house” (now owned by the CEO of a famous footwear company).
The Old Cottage, 2005
As disappointing as it to hear this news, I do hope that making this tough decision allows the owner to keep at least her half of it, build her extended family a new house suitable for year-round visitation and have enough left over to endow the taxes.
Still, the property that was full of trees, wild blueberries and, yes, skunks—vegetation, at least, that hasn’t been disturbed by anything but Mother Nature for almost a hundred years—is now flattened and cleared. You used to have to drive onto the property on a rutted dirt path so narrow that the brambles always left the sides of your car scratched. Now there’s to be open lawn, with only a single line of trees between the tidal marsh and the houses.
Moments like this make me happy that I take and keep pictures of places that have meaning to me.
Front Room, 2005