It’s just a hundred years ago that the cruising squadron of the New York Yacht Club paid its first visit to Martha’s Vineyard, and the schooner America was among them. And so the rendezvous set for today in Edgartown harbor completes a sort of neat historical package, even to the coming of the yachts from among which the defenders of the America’s Cup will be selected.
In the summer of 1858 the New York yachts sailed into the harbor of Holmes Hole first - now, of course, it’s Vineyard Haven, and the canvas-driven cargo vessels of the old days are missing. The yachts hold an undisputed summer sovereignty, as they do at Edgartown as well, where in 1858 the whaleships lay, fitting for the fall departures of the Pacific that were then customary.
From Holmes Hole the visitors sailed around to Edgartown, or Oldtown, at the time of that long ago visit, and found no pleasure dome whatever; except that the town hall, which had been bought from the Methodists a scant decade before, for the sum of $800, and converted from church use, was adequate for a dance. The rental of the hall - $2.50 - did not include a piano, which cost $10 more.
Benches that the yachtsmen and their partners, who were the daughters of the town, sat upon in the summer of 1858 are now among the memorabilia of the Edgartown Yacht Club, but it is unlikely that they will be sat upon by the visitors of 1958. Changed, all is changed - yet not quite all; history repeats just enough to provide the effect of here and there a rhyming word.