A home has been found for what may well be the Island’s oldest house.
Within a matter of months the old Vincent house which now stands on the MacKenty property on Edgartown Great Pond will be moved to the back yard of the Dr. Daniel Fisher House at the entrance to Edgartown proper.
By the summer of 1979, it will be open as a museum, C. Stuart Avery said this week.
Mr. Avery is executive vice president and treasurer of the Martha’s Vineyard Historical Preservation Society, Inc., soon to be owners of the house.
“This is exactly what we are in business for - to save old and historic houses,” Mr. Avery said Tuesday. The Vincent house is the third in the society’s string: its first undertaking was the Dr. Daniel Fisher House; last fall, it took over the Ritter house in Vineyard Haven.
“This is the very thing we wanted from day one,” Jeremiah G. MacKenty said the same day. He was speaking for his brother and sister, John E MacKenty and Mrs. Katharine M. Bigelow.
The three of them are giving the house to the society.
The agreement is final, but papers are expected to be passed within a week or so. One little legal complication is that, since the society is getting a house but no land, a bill of sale has to be concocted instead of a routine deed.
The house, which is believed to have been built in 1656, was purchased from Mrs. Mabel Kenniston Baker by John G. MacKenty in 1940. She was the last of a line of eight generations of Vincents to own the house.
At Mr. MacKenty’s death, the house passed into the hands of his three children. They have been faced with a quandary. They have recognized that the house is a treasure which should be saved, but were unable to preserve it themselves. For the last several years they have been looking for a savior.
They found several individuals who were interested in the house, but each of them planned to remove the house from the Island and use it as a private residence.
A month or so ago, Mr. Avery says his society became interested and approached the MacKenty family. The family’s terms were simple: the family would give the house to the society, provided the society would move it to a suitable location and properly preserve it. The family would also retain some say in the restoration and management of the house.
Last week, the board of directors of the society voted unanimously to accept the gift. It isn’t entirely free: moving restoration and landscaping costs are estimated at nearly $100,000.
Incidentally, Mr. Avery, as a real estate agent, resided over the transaction of the house from Mrs. Baker to Mr. MacKenty in 1940. “I know the house well, and I love it,” he said Tuesday.
The house will be moved to the crest of the hill behind the Dr. Daniel Fisher house, Mr. Avery says. The edge of the hill near the driveway will be graded to a flatter slope, up which a winding walk will lead. At the northwest side of the driveway a little parking lot will be built.
The house is a farmhouse, Mr. Avery points out, and by rights should have space around it. The yard is expansive. The society also plans to plant around the house shrubs and flowers characteristic of the house’s style and period.
Shortly, the A. W. Baker Restoration Company will begin a careful documentation of the house as it now stands. Work will also begin on a fieldstone foundation for the house at the new site.
Some repair work will be done on the house before it is moved, including replacement of the sills and repair of the chimney. But most of the repair work will be done after the building is moved - that may be in a few months, but certainly will be done by next spring.
Mr. Avery says the society does not plan to polish the house during the restoration - it is a farmhouse and will be kept that way, he says. The society also intends to restore the house as it now stands, rather than taking it back to what may have been its original appearance.
One of the charms of the house is its air of growth. For example, one of the parlors was redecorated during the Victorian period. That will remain unchanged.
When the restoration is complete, the house will be open as a museum fulltime during the summer and at regular intervals during the winter.
Mr. Avery says the society hopes to furnish the house with furniture and utensils of the period, hopefully things from Island homes.
The undertaking is unusual for the preservation society, in one respect. The Ritter house will be, and the Dr. Daniel Fisher house is rented for office space, to help pay their way. This is the society’s first venture into museums.