From the Sept. 3, 1926 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

The sale of the ship-chandlers’ store and surrounding property at Vineyard Haven marks the closing chapter in the history of that ancient institution which has been in existence for nearly a century. Owned and conducted for many years by Edward C. Lord, the store has attracted but little attention, indeed there are many persons who were not aware of its existence.

Its situation, at the foot of Hortons’ Lane where the old wharf makes off into the harbor is far removed from the present business center of the town, yet strange as it may seem, this spot was once, not only the real business center of Holmes Hole, but it was the location of the only store in town.

Its earliest history is somewhat obscure, but there are still a few living persons who can recall the store of seventy-five years ago, when it was the establishment of Holmes and West, Shipchandlers and Merchants.

Everything necessary for the maintenance of mankind ashore or afloat could be purchased there, except liquor, which contrary to the general custom of the day, was not handled.

Down Main Street, and thence by Horton’s Lane lumbered the ox-carts from Up-Island loaded with wool or produce to be sold or exchanged for clothing, provision, farm implements, fishing gear. At the wharf which stood in nearly the same spot where the present one stands, all types of craft lay; loading or discharging cargo or making repairs with spars or gear purchased on the spot.

The Island steamers docked at this wharf at that time, and the steamer telegraph is still remembered by the few who used to gather there as boys. In the upper room of the old building was the telegraph office, and Holmes was a Notary and maintained an office in the back part of the store where he transacted his official business.

Passengers to and from the steamers were transported between Edgartown and Vineyard Haven by a stage driven by John Pease, and those who journeyed to the spot on foot or horseback, took a short-cut by a path which paralleled the beach, and which may still be traced.

The store was the gathering place of men and boys of the town and many are the tales still told of the happenings in that old-time establishment.

Holmes was a humorist and loved a joke above all things, while West was an irritable man much given to profanity. When the pranks of the boys had reached a point where he could no longer endure them he would exclaim with explosive adjectives; “You boys leave this store or I’ll dart you half-way to the beach!”

Captain William Bartlet Claghorn who was one of the boys, states that they aways left, but that they would return in a very few moments and all would be forgotten and forgiven.

Captain Claghorn relates that his bosom friend, Captain Benjamin Dexter then a boy wished to write an Edgartown girl to accompany him to a party, and accordingly asked Mr. Holmes for writing materials as he wished to send her a note.

“Go right into the office and write it,” said the genial Holmes, “and when it is done, I’ll look it over for mistakes.”

The destined-to-be skipper completed his note and passed it over for inspection. Intending to word his salutation, “My Dear Girl,” he had written “Gull” instead. “Well,” ruminated Holmes, “Edgartown is near Muskeget, and there isn’t anything but gulls in that place, so I guess it’ll go alright,” whereupon he stamped the letter with his notary’s seal, and it was mailed. “And the girl was there at the party with Ben, all right,” chuckles Capt. Claghorn.

Neither the wharf or building are the original ones owned by Holmes and West. The wharf was destroyed by the heaviest North-easter that ever struck the coast on April 18, 1857. The same gale which destroyed Minots’ Light. It was rebuilt, but not as large as before, and with the building of a steam-boat landing on its present site, the old wharf fell into comparative disuse.

Some years ago, the store which was used solely as a ship-chandlery, was destroyed by fire and the present building was erected by Mr. Lord. Although merely a single-story, modern building, there is still an air of romance about the place. Floor and walls are covered with heaps and masses of ships’ gear. Rolls of canvas, coils of rope, piles of heavy blocks and many other articles. Over all is an odor suggestive of ships. The smell of tar, coming from the oakum and marlin, paint-oil and salted cordage, all mingle with the scent of the ocean breeze which comes blustering in off the harbor.

Now all of this must go. The property having been purchased by Mrs. Barbara K. Rideing will be used in connection with her hotel. At all events it will no longer be used as a ship-chandlers’ shop.

The spot once frequented by stalwart seamen or brawny farmers, will be a bathing beach. The sand and sea will cover every remaining trace of the former establishment and its history, romantic and fascinating will be forgotten.

Compiled by Hilary Wall