Oak Bluffs’ Wesley House Hotel is the sole remaining majestic Cottage City hotel. Operating continuously as a hotel since 1879, the landmark 95-room hotel is one of the few commercial reminders of our Victorian architectural past. According to its website, the Wesley House was the first hotel outside of Boston to be wired for electricity and most Massachusetts governors were its guests for the first half of the century.
Meticulously maintained — and one of the first structures seen when entering Oak Bluffs harbor — the 134-year-old Wesley House has defied the fate of the other original 15 downtown Cottage City hotels (Baxter, Beatrice, Circuit Avenue House, Dunbar, Grover, Howard, Island House, Metropolitan, Oak Bluffs, Oakwood, Pawnee House, the Sea View, Vineyard Grove and Wyoming). Ironically, our first hotel was the Oak Bluffs — the first building built at the wharf by the Oak Bluffs Land and Wharf Company — originally a store house with hotel rooms upstairs. It was repurposed as the Island House, which hasn’t been a hotel for some time. The elaborate Sea View Hotel, designed by the genius Samuel F. Pratt, was 300 feet long with five stories facing the water, 125 original rooms and a dining hall seating 400 was Cottage City’s first sole purpose hotel. It was one of several hotels that burned down over the years. Others were torn down for their lumber after World War II when a fractured American economy didn’t need as many rooms.
The beloved Wesley House has been on the market for several years. A wooden, historically significant structure on land leased from a religious association may be a difficult prospect for acquisition. A business of that magnitude and financial importance to the town should warrant attention (pun intended) at a time when Oak Bluffs’ infrastructure is under review beginning Tuesday at our special town meeting. On one hand, it’s fair to say that a private business is of no business of ours. Judging from Articles 14 and 15 (amending business zoning bylaws to address minimum maintenance standards of commercial buildings) it may be the town’s business after all.
We see what a lack of attention has done for movie theatres and a laundromat, for example. Waxing quixotic, it might make sense for town leadership to meet with the owners of the Wesley House — and the Camp Meeting Association to find if there may be ways the town can be of assistance with a transition of some kind. I wonder, long-term planning wise, if the location of our police station is its highest use, particularly if the department were to be moved to town hall or the fire and ambulance facility? I think that would be an ideal location for a historically appealing, modern hotel, perhaps modeled after the Tivoli building that made room for town hall when it was torn down in 1964.
Assessed for $1,617,600, the one-third acre parcel is large enough for a building with a footprint of 7,200 square feet and/or about 28,000 square feet for a four-story hotel. Perhaps three stories could be devoted to 45 to 60 guest rooms and the first floor could comprise retail stores and a restaurant — maybe even a steak place. Such an economic engine across from the ferry, adjacent to beaches, bars and shopping would obviate visitors’ need for a car. Maybe even a suite hotel like the Nantucket hotel — and possibly built by the Vineyard’s amazingly capable Mark Snider and his wife who built it and the Winnetu Hotel at the other end of the Island? It seems like this could become an interesting conversation benefitting many, beginning with the town of Oak Bluffs.
Oak Bluffs has again been designated as one of the 63 regional places for the Veterans Day Parade that starts at Nancy’s at 10:45 a.m. this coming Monday.
Tuesday evening is the Oak Bluffs special town meeting at 7 p.m. at the elementary school.
The Martha’s Vineyard NAACP is hosting a community health fair next Saturday, Nov. 16 from 9:15 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. at the high school and you can contact Dr. Lorna Andrade at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 508-627-9074. More details next week. Also next Saturday the Oak Bluffs library hosts the American Library Association’s 6th annual international Games Day from 10 a.m. to noon.
Board of selectmen chairman Walter Vail asks the media to remind you that the northbound lane of East Chop Drive is closed to traffic. Or you can check the town of Oak Bluffs website at oakbluffsma.gov. Just kidding.
Dave Richardson, our former personable town moderator and Tony’s Market entrepreneur has bought the property on Dukes County avenue, once an entertainment venue known as the Pit Stop. Dave plans using the property for additional parking and an open air pavilion where Tony’s Market customers could have a sandwich. He also envisions a couple of small residential townhouses there following the appropriate application process. Tony’s Market has been in continuous service to our community since 1877 and is the only Island grocery store that also sells beer and wine.
As for Articles 14 and 15 at the special town meeting: I’d like to see what happens to owners whose properties fall into disrepair, and there do not seem to be any provisions for same. Would one be fined if one refused to put the T and R back in one’s sign for example?
Keep your foot on a rock.