From the Jan. 29, 1950 edition of the Gazette:

A vote by the Steamship Authority on Wednesday to acquire the land at the head of the Vineyard Haven steamboat wharf owned by Mrs. Charles L. Luce of Nashua, N.H., and Mrs. Emma W. Chase, opens the way for the construction of a new ferry slip completely independent of the wharf, and for far-reaching developments which will not only give the Island a completely modern ferry terminal but a traffic plan adequate for present and future needs.

The Authority has also entered into an agreement with the owners of Lane Apartments, Inc., - the Lane block - for the acquisition of land to the north of that just described. Together, the two acquisitions will open for effective development between the waterfront and the rear of the Lane block, with the exception of a small piece owned by John S. M. Johnson. The Authority will act jointly with the town of Tisbury in working out plans for traffic flow, parking, and all matters having to do with approaches to the new terminal.

The land acquired from Mrs. Luce and Mrs. Chase includes that on which the so-called Double-Decker, housing a restaurant and antique shop and a building immediately in the rear, are located. Occupancy of the Double Decker by Mr. and Mrs. Leroy W. Luce will be continued through the summer of 1950, but eventually these buildings will be taken down or moved to new sites. They are of a type that will make removal practical, and the historic interest suggests that this will be the solution.

The present action of the Authority, taken at a meeting in New Bedford on Wednesday, has the immediate effect of opening the way for construction of a permanent ferry slip for use by the ferry now being built.

The problem of the Vineyard Haven wharf and of the bottleneck at the head of the wharf has been a vexing and anxious one over a log period of years. The New Haven railroad, while it owned the steamship line, worked with persistence in repeated attempts to work out a solution, and its successor, the Massachusetts Steamship Lines Inc., also tried and failed.

Because of the narrow access, the Massachusetts Steamship Lines had to build their ferry slip, never anything more than a crude stopgap, at an angle and attached to the wharf itself. This spoiled the side of the wharf for berthing other craft, if they were of any size, and aroused mixed emotions in the breasts of all beholders. Practically no one ever looked at the old slip without wondering why it was built as it was, and suggesting some way to do the job better.

Now that a slip can be built entirely apart from the wharf, the port facilities of the town will be freed from an old burden, in addition to the even more significant improvements.

The most significant thing will be the broad municipal development contemplated for many years and now to be realized. This will include approaches, proper provisions for storage in proximity to the ferry terminal, parking, traffic flow, and a new dignity for the harborfront and the town.

The Double Decker building has considerable historic interest which, Mr. Luce said, is recognized by the Authority, and this will probably lead to its being preserved in a new location more suitable to its modern uses. In whaling days it was used as a cooper shop, and the whaleships of Holmes Hole used to tie up at what was anciently called the Union Wharf. Later this structure was used for lumber by the late Owen H. Tilton, and for packing Boat Brand Codfish by Fischer Brothers.

The wharf itself is one of the oldest, at least in the series of structures which have stood at this site. It is owned by the Vineyard Haven Wharf Co., one of the oldest corporations in the state, chartered by act of the legislature sometime before 1850. Capt. Ralph M. Packer is president of the company, S. C. Luce Jr. treasurer, and Albert F. Haas is a director. The Steamship Authority controls the wharf through ownership of the stock of the wharf company. It is interesting that this ancient corporation will be the instrument through which a far-reaching modern improvement is to be effected.

The traffic and parking features of the new terminal and municipal plan will be correlated with the parking lot recently acquired by the town and hard-surfaced. This is the rear of the Island Transports building, reached by Cromwell Lane from Main street, and reaches to the street below.

As to the antiquity of the street and wharf site, there is this reference in the Tisbury town records: “Preamble of the road that leads from the County Road to Holmes Hole Harbour where the Wharf is now located. I Hereby Certify that on the 24th day of December, 1834, I was called upon by the Selectmen of the Town of Tisbury to preambulate the County road leading from a County road at the head of Holmes Hole harbour down to where the wharf is located...Stephen Skiff, Surveyor.”

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox