From the May 9, 1952 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

Lagoon Pond at Vineyard Haven was originally called the harbor of Homes Hole — the old name for the town and port — for it was long open to the saltwater and afforded a deep anchorage. But it was known as a pond too, and there are deeds of the eighteenth century referring to it as Wakataqua Pond. Communication between the village of Holmes Hole at the head of the present Vineyard Haven harbor, and the eastern shore — known as Eastville — was entirely by water until 1871 when the Lagoon bridge was completed. The incentive for construction of the bridge was the rise of a summer resort, developed around the camp ground, for which the historic landing was at Eastville.

The camp ground and the budding resort were in the township of Edgartown, but by means of the Lagoon bridge and new beach road, Vineyard Haven was able to gain all the advantages of its geographical proximity.

Today the Lagoon is a beautiful body of water and site of an important shellfishery.

Wharves are interesting in the same way that bridges are interesting, but often more so. It is true that no wharf has the majesty of George Washington Bridge, for instance, but on the other hand this majestic bridge has not the solid comfort of an old wharf sloshed by the tide and possessing a caplog and dolphins whereon man may sit or fish or indulge his philosophy. A wharf may suggest seagoing without the effort or the requirement of time. The chances are that it has uneasy, rugged water under it — around the Vineyard at least — where as the usual span of bridges is across relatively tame streams.

The date of the first Vineyard wharf is lost in history. Something is known, however, of various famous wharves in modern times.

In July, 1867, the first wharf was completed at what is now Oak Bluffs, and in bold water, as the saying went. Up to that time it had not been considered practical to construct a wharf at this place, for most Vineyarders believed the winter storms would wreak systematic destruction. The advantage of having a wharf at Oak Bluffs, however — rather than continuing to use landings at Eastville in the protection of Vineyard Haven harbor — was so great that the Oak Bluffs Land & Wharf Co. went ahead.

The new wharf stood up admirably, and from then on the course of history was changed. About 1872, the Vineyard Grove Co., engaged in promoting the interests of Vineyard Highlands and East Chop, caused the construction of the Highland Wharf at the present site of the East Chop Beach Club at a cost of $15,000. There had been a great boom in wharves through this period, largely due to the growth of Oak Bluffs. A new wharf was built at Eastville by the firm of Luce & Littlefield in 1866, and a road opened from here to the camp meeting. This same structure was later rebuilt and named New York Wharf. It functioned heroically in Vineyard annals because it was the stopping place of the New York Yacht Club fleet and of the steamers that ran between Portland and New York. In 1872 the Vineyard Grove Co., which had acquired this wharf, valued it at $4,000.

The Oak Bluffs wharf was burned when the great Sea View Hotel was destroyed by fire in 1892, but it was rebuilt and enlarged. The final enlargement to the present proportions of a major water terminal took place in 1929.

A wharf at Gay Head was built in the eighties, largely for the excursion steamers which plied to this headland from Oak Bluffs and from the Cape. Ox carts took visitors from the landing to the top of the cliffs. It was the improvement of roads and the coming of automobiles that did for the excursions — and after the excursions ceased, the wharf slowly fell to ruin.

Ruin too was the fate of the West Chop wharf, part of the development of the resort community of West Chop, built for the convenience of weekenders from Boston, largely, who thus did not have to travel to Vineyard Haven to catch the boat. In the day of the automobile this trip to and form Vineyard Haven was to become nothing at all, whereas an extra stop by a steamboat was a bothersome item.

What is now the Edgartown town wharf was long owned by the late Dr. Daniel Fisher, whaling magnate, who used it not only for landing oil — his glass-roofed oil refining sheds were situated close by — but also for shipping wheat which was raised on the Island and ground into flour by water-driven mills in West Tisbury and Chilmark.

This wharf was sold to the steamboat company in 1889, and in modern times by the steamboat company to the town.

The present Edgartown Yacht Club wharf at the foot of Main street may have been the oldest wharf on the Island, just as the street was one of the oldest. It was associated first with the Coffins, and then became Osborn’s Wharf and continued so through a period when Samuel Osborn Jr. was the largest individual owner of whaling property in the United States. Edgartown, by the way, had five wharves in the year 1859.

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox