The Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank announced Friday that it had purchased the historic Arrowhead Farm on Indian Hill in West Tisbury, with a plan to preserve the iconic property as a working farm in perpetuity.

Farm has been an equestrian center with pony programs for children since the 1980s. — Ray Ewing

The purchase price was $4.43 million. The sellers are Robert Douglas, the well known captain of the Vineyard Haven tall ship Shenandoah, and his wife Charlene Douglas. The Douglases will retain a life estate on the property as part of the terms of sale.

The purchase was first announced by the land bank on its Facebook page Friday.

“The 33-acre property is well-known to Islanders as the scenic farm located at the curve in the road — and also as an equestrian center where many Islanders have taken lessons and learned to ride,” the announcement said.

It also said Mr. and Mrs. Douglas will retain a life estate on the farm, during which time the land bank will maintain a trail head and circumferential trail around the property for the public. The land bank also intends to create a parking area for walkers.

“At the end of the life-estate, the land bank will additionally seek to create a working farm here, via a public competition to lease the house and fields to a farmer with established skills and abilities in agriculture, natural resource management, mechanics and carpentry,” the announcement said.

Nestled at the crook of scenic Indian Hill Road, the farm contains more than 30 acres of grassy, rolling fields and woodlands that have served as an equestrian center since the 1980s. The property also contains a historic farm cottage, and a 60 by 144-foot lighted horse-riding arena, according to its website.

Roadside farm includes a barn and brook that is part of the Mill Brook river system — Ray Ewing

Mr. Douglas also owns the tall ship Shenandoah, which he recently donated to FUEL, an educational nonprofit.

Speaking by phone with the Gazette Monday, land bank executive director James Lengyel said the Douglases contacted the land bank through their lawyer in early March about selling the property. Always interested in roadside farms because of both their agricultural potential and scenic value, Mr. Lengyel said the land bank took particular note of Arrowhead.

“The third dimension here that made this property so appealing to the land bank is the prospect that is going to be able to some day lease it out to someone who will turn it into a full-scale land bank farm, with opportunities for crops and livestock and everything that one imagines a full farm to be,” he said.

The land bank paid $2.8 million upon closing the sale last week, and will pay out the remaining approximately $1.7 balance over the next four years, Mr. Lengyel said. Although the Douglases will continue to live on the property and pay taxes for the remainder of their lives, the title has already been transferred to the land bank’s name.

Dating back more than a century, the farm’s modern market-gardening era began around 1946, when Percy Burt sold the property to a Dedham man named Robert Elwell. Initially cultivating corn, lettuce and tomatoes on the fields, Mr. Elwell later expanded to peas, beans, cucumbers, squash and spinach, turning the property into a classic Island truck farm, equipped with a roadside stand, according to a 1948 Gazette article.

Arrowhead Farm changed hands multiple times before its sale to Ronald D. Silva in 1966, intializing its horse-farming era. A story in the Gazette announcing the sale described the farm’s long history.

“Though the name is comparatively recent, the farm is an ancient one, known for its natural beauty and fertility, the latter aided by the brook, a tributary of the Old Mill River, which rises in the Christiantown Hills and supplies water even in dry times,” the story said.

History as a working farm dates back for more than a century. — Ray Ewing

The Douglases have owned the property since at least the late 1980s, when Mrs. Douglas, who had a longtime interest in horses, started the equestion center. The facility has since taught thousands of Island children riding lessons, horse maintenance and dressage — a direct result of Mrs. Douglas’s influence.

Mr. Lengyel said the land bank will begin a search for a full-time farmer after the Douglases complete their life estate. The land bank does not intend to continue the equestrian center, instead focusing on the property as a working farm, he said.

The land bank currently has 12 properties that it leases for farming, including Tea Lane farm in Chilmark. Tea Lane was also purchased by the land bank as a life estate with longtime Islander and landowner Bobby Silva, who died in 2010.

Approximately 19 of the farm’s 33 acres are currently used as a working horse farm. Another five acres west of the paddocks contain a hayfield — which the land bank in the short term will use as a farm field — while the rest of the property contains the brook, woodlands and rolling hills.

“It’s the classic juxtaposition of farm fields, and woods, and brook,” Mr. Langyel said. “It’s just a very scenic place.”

The purchase marks the second large property transaction for the land bank in two months; in early September it was announced that the land bank and Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation will buy Red Gate Farm in Aquinnah. That sale is expected to close by the end of the year, with the land bank contributing $15 million to the $27 million purchase.

Mr. Lengyel’s enthusiasm for the property’s future was unbridled — horses or not.

“We’re going to be able to say to a professional farmer, what do you envision? What do you think you can create on this remarkable property?” he said. “That is truly exciting.”

More pictures.