South Main St., Spring St., and Centre St.

as remembered by Stan Lair, 1979

Transcribed by C. Baer, 1996.


[The following transcript was made from an audio tape labeled "South Main St., Spring St., Centre St." made by Stan Lair in 1979. There may be spelling errors in my transcript.]

Comments? Questions? Corrections? Suggestions? Write the compiler.
Back to the Tisbury History.

South Main Street - West Side

1979. This is Stan Lair. And now we'll take a trip up what I call South Main Street, the area from the Mansion House up the hill towards the State Road, going towards Gay Head. This whole area, years ago, was blocked off in the winter, at several times in the winter, for sliding, so the kids could take their sleds and slide from, well we called it McDonnough's[?] Hill. So we would start up by the Edgartown Road actually, and go all the way down to Dukes County Garage, in that area. All kinds of sleds operated here. They had what they called the double-runner sled, which actually was two sleds connected together with boards or whatever. The front slide was steered by the man or the boy in the front, with his feet. And he'd carry four or five people at once. We used to really zoom down that hill, too. There were a few accidents, but nothing real serious. And the kids always had a real good time there.

Well, let's start at the, well, down by the Mansion House on the right-hand side, across from the Mansion House, on the right hand side just beyond, well what they called Jenkins Paint Shop which is now Brickman's. And the building that was in Brickman's parking lot is now gone. It was torn down to make a parking lot. It was owned by the Look Family, Look sisters, I believe. Connected with Tashmoo[?] Farm, anyway. Ray and Clara Chipman lived there for quite a few years, with their family. Then it was later made into apartments, and eventually was torn down.

The next building, the Cooperative Bank building actually now, well it - a little history connected with this one. It was built in the 1800's by Capt. Matthew Luce, and eventually came into the possession of Mrs. Grafton L. Daggett who was living there the day of the fire in August, 1883. As the fire rushed nearer, Mrs. Daggett spread quilts and heavy blankets on the roof, and wet them thoroughly, bringing water in buckets up through the skylight. Desperately she called for help. A completely unknown young man appeared, and said he came from a vessel in the harbor. And he promptly began carrying the heavy buckets to the roof. When the fire was finally over, the young man disappeared, leaving his hat which he had laid aside. He never came back for the hat. This bit of information was in the little pamphlet, Old Houses of Vineyard Haven, and I believe it was complied by Doris Hough.

Also in this same building, Dr. Cosgrove had his office for quite awhile. I think that was just previous to the Coop Bank getting in there.

The next building was occupied by Clem West at one time, Clem West's family. He ran the livery stable in the Mansion House barn. I believe he drove a peddler's cart around at one time. I don't remember what he sold, though. It finally wound up in the Roth Family, Dr. Roth's family. I don't know who owns it now - I know it's been sold.

The next building on the corner of the little lane which goes up there - we always called it Laura Johnson's Lane, it's actually Camp Street - was Tom Morant[?]. And he lived there for a long time. Finally Clarence Chapman lived there, still lives there in fact, his family. Old Tom, he was a cantankerous old sole. In those days, back then, the night before the fourth was a big time. And in fact my parents would give us permission to stay out all night that night, and the boys would go out and just raising the dickens. Turning over outhouses and putting wagons on roofs and all that stuff. Old Tom - they turned over his outhouse once, and he was in it! After that he really patrolled that area on the night before the fourth. Clarence Chapman lives there now, or his widow lives there. Clarence did run a flower garden up in back of his home, and he did work for the telephone company, also.

Now the next building on the corner of Camp Street, across Camp Street, and the corner of Camp and Main, is one of the oldest houses in town. Actually I think it was built in the 1700's. Let's see what I can find about that one in this little pamphlet here. Yeah. "It is one of the five oldest houses in the village. It was built in three stages. The first part was built in the 1700's as its lines clearly show, and moved to its present site probably before 1800 by Captain Lot Luce. Either he or his son added the second part of the house, and the kitchen and garage were added about fifty years ago. It has had several owners, and has always been occupied." The owner that sticks in my mind that occupied that house is Laura Johnson and her mother. And later it was Laura Johnson and Miss James, lived there for a long time. Laura and her brother John ran the Express Office, Adams Express Office.

Well the next house up the hill on the right hand side is the Conroy sisters. That was another old house. That was torn down, and now I believe it is Estrella Gas Company. I know it is. Estrella Gas Company, right on that piece of land.

Well continuing up the hill the next... well, going around the corner now, the next house is the Dexter House, which sits right opposite Causeway Road, where Causeway Road intersects Main Street. Now let's see what it says about the Dexter House in this pamphlet. Yeah, here it is: "The old Dexter House has been so known since it was built in 1730. The present owner, Mrs. William B. Leatherby[?], is descended through her mother of the Dexter Family. The house is typical of second period colonial. No alterations have been made on the outside to affect its austere beauty." It is a nice old house. Several families have lived in it over the years. Burgett[?] Smith lived there for awhile, Ernest Tilton's widow lived there with one of her boys, two of her boys I guess, for awhile, and it's been occupied just about all of the time.

The next house is also an old house. It is owned at this time by Helen Viera at this time, but her name isn't Viera though. Helen... what the heck is it? Anyway, she was Helen Viera. Originally it was owned by Captain Joseph Dexter. The main structure aligns with the house that with places[?] back in the 1700's. The normal windows suggest a modern, though not unbecoming touch." Well, as I remember that house years back it was Sarah Legg lived there, an old lady.

And the next house going up the hill was the John McDonnough House. All of the McDonnough Family was brought up in this house. The only one left there now, Kathleen, she still owns the house and lives there. The rest of the family have gone various places.

The next little house was the Gilbert West House. I remember Gilbert West, he was some sort of relative I guess, second cousin or something. His daughter Alfreda West, I west to school with her. And I think it is only occupied summers at this time.

The next area is Luther West's farm - I call it a farm, I guess it actually is, there's a barn on the property. His house sits back from the street a bit and the property goes from street to street. I believe it has been sold. I don't know who bought it, but I believe someone has bought that property.

The next house is fairly new, fairly recent. I don't know just when it was built, but not too many years back. The Dr. Thompson House right on the corner of that little lane that runs down from William Street to Main Street.
So, crossing over that little lane, is the Chauncey Smith House, now occupied by Mrs. Robert West. I remember Chauncey very well. He was very much interested in basketball. Every time the basketball team went off-island on a trip or played a game anywhere, Chauncey was always there. He was interested in the boys. And he had a little cement... he called it the Shanty Cement Shop, I believe. It was up the State Road further, about where John's Fish Market is now. Where he made cement blocks, and that sort of thing. And it is now Mrs. Robert West. I guess I said that.

The next house right on the corner of Look Street and Main Street is a house I remember as the old Elmer Chadwick House. He lived there for years. Elmer and his wife raised dahlia, had beautiful dahlias out in the garden there. Of course he was a blacksmith by trade, but his hobby was raising these dahlias and he had some nice ones. I don't know who owns that house now.

Well, we've arrived up at Look Street. Now we will cross over.

South Main Street - East Side

Okay, we've crossed Main Street, and we're now heading down Main Street on the right hand side. Starting at the Edgartown Road, on the corner, that property was Arthur Freelander. He was a painter, an artist. He had a studio there, and did some real nice pictures. Later it became a restaurant of some sort. And I really don't know what it is now.

But coming back to the next house which was the Willis Hancock House, right on the corner of Delano Road and Main Street. Willis lived there a good many years, and he ran a plumbing business down on the corner of Lagoon Pond Road and Beach Road.

Okay, crossing Delano Road, the next house on that corner was Marshall Norton House. Marshall lived there a long time, and then finally Tom Williamson bought it, he and his family lived there, and I don't know who owns it now. I think Tom did sell it.

The next house coming down the hill on that side was the Peter Cromwell house. Frank Downs lived there for a good many years. That's quite an old house too.

The next one was Frank Swift house. Frank ran a clothing business down in Vineyard Haven, on Main Street there, and he lived in this house with his family.

Then we come to the John Reynolds house. That's near the corner of Causeway Road and Main Street. He was a boatsman, and I guess in his early days he was a skipper, some sort of a captain. But he did operate a catboat - I think it was down from the Dukes County Dock, down in that area. Captain John Reynolds. He had two daughters, one was Charlotte, the other one was George Dolby's mother. I forget her name.

Then the next little building was fairly new, quite new in fact. It was built by Mrs. Herbert Stevens for her daughter I believe, and I think she probably still owns it.

Now we have arrived at Causeway Road.

Next area - there's a barn on that area, actually on Causeway Road, but that's right on the corner. I believe it did belong to Marshall McDonnough. I don't know if it still does or not. We used to call it the Mansion House Barn. I think they kept carriages and stuff in it, from the Mansion House. Painted the same color anyway, sort of a light yellow, light brown I guess it was. Brownish yellow.

Okay. Then we come around to the Elisha Luce House. That's right on the bend of the road there, and Elisha lived there for a long time. He was a relative of the Fishers, Albert Fisher's wife I believe was his daughter.

Okay. Now we have arrived at Mrs. Revell's house. Hannah Revell. She was a nice old lady. She and her husband operated this place for awhile. He finally died and she carried on by herself. Everyone went to Mrs. Revel's for their ice cream. It is now Dr. Finkelstein's office, and home I believe. And Mrs. Revel had a walking cash register. She always wore a black apron, almost like a carpenter's apron, had the pocket in the front. And in the pocket she carried all her change. And if you bought something she'd make change out of her apron. Now everything here was very informal. You could sit anywhere you wanted to. Eat your ice cream in the living room, the dining room, the kitchen, or whatever. Out on the porch if you wanted to. And it was a very popular place. She was very friendly to all the young people and they all liked to go there. I know I used to go there quite a bit. And in later years I believe it was bought by Francis Duart, and it was made into apartments. Families lived upstairs and downstairs in the building. Finally it was bought by Dr. Finkelstein who remodelled it and has his office there now.

The next little house, as I remember, was owned by Nellie Cleveland. She was Morris Cleveland's wife. Maybe Morris owned it, I don't know. But I do remember going there as a real young boy with my mother. A lady my the name of Bessie Doane lived there - that would be Arthur Doane's mother, who now lives up in West Tisbury. And she was crippled, so she painted pictures, cards, and that sort of thing, and sold them. I used to go there with my mother and visit her. She was a friend of my mother's. Her name was Bessie Doane. I believe now it belongs to Frank Vincent, young Frank Vincent.

So the next building, let's see. The next building was Alvin Cleveland. Alvin Cleveland was a carpenter, and he was one of the rescue crew, that famous rescue in the 1898 Gale, along with Frank Golart and a few others. They went out in a small craft and brought in sailors from the sunken vessels. Maybe got a medal for it. Alvin Cleveland - we called him Al Cleveland - he was a nice gentleman. I always liked him. Very generous. He gave me a few tools, a few of his carpenter tools. He was quite old at that time. In fact I still have a few today, of his old tools, and they're excellent, very very good tools that were made in the old days.

The next property was the Foster Family Property again, right on the corner, where the Youth Center is, and we did describe that on a previous tape. So we have arrived back at Beach Street, and covered all that area I think. And I think we'll now jump over to Spring Street. We'll go up there and see what we can find up there.

Spring Street - North Side

Okay, we're now on Spring Street. We'll start at the corner of Main and Spring, heading up the hill, on the right hand side.

The building on the corner, which is now Issokson's Cleaners, is the site of the old Baptist Church. It was on this spot before it was destroyed by fire in 1883. The fire wiped out all of our Main Street. And I guess I told who it was occupied by in another tape: John Lambert Store, the harness shop, E. T. Walker Hardware, and now Issoksons.

Well now, going up the hill, the next house is the Albert and Fannie Look House. Albert Look was Ralph Look Senior's father. And Ralph lived there for awhile. It is now owned by Bernie Issokson.

The next house we called the Branscomb House. It was occupied by George Pierce and his wife Berta, Berta being one of the Branscombs. They lived there for quite awhile, and now it is Mrs. Ralph Begolia(?) lives there.

The next one going up the hill is the Olivia Smith House. We described that one on the William Street tour. Mary Lewis living upstairs, and her mother.

Okay crossing William Street. On the corner of William and Spring Street is the Baptist Church. This church was built in about 1885. A little sidelight to this - I guess it was right after the fire - for a short time the church body held services in what is now the Town Hall, the Association Hall, the Catherine Cornell Memorial Hall. But on May 30, 1884, a committee was appointed to collect funds for a new church. There were Lorenzo D. Smith, John F. Robinson, Bayes F. Norton, Mrs. Myra Wade, and the pastor, J. P. Ferrar(?). William Buckley and Steven C. Luce later joined the committee as secretary, the final reports being signed by him. Holmes Athearn and C. H. Norton were later added to the committee. The cost of the present church as dedicated, was $6500. The first action of the committee, taken at the meeting in the Association Hall, where the society was called together. It is described in this entry: "Voted, that the present committee be instructed to obtain from J. H. Lambert a written agreement to the effect that he will remove his hog pen and wall up under the east end of his barn, and exchange the land where the hog pen now is for a certain piece of land in the rear of said barn. Voted the committee be instructed that if the above arrangement be made with Mr. Lambert to purchase the lot of land of Captain William Cleveland, provided that the said lot of land be purchased for the sum of $650." This information if from a little pamphlet entitled "175 Years of Church History" by Joseph Chase Allen.

The next building is the Baptist Parsonage. This land was given by Rudolphus W. Crocker to build the parsonage, and the first family that can recall that lived there was the Rev. Charles Merrill and his family. There was Elaine, Evangeline, Ester, and there was a boy Charlie - Charles, Ruth, and the youngest was Elizabeth. I recall them very well because we were always playing around that area. Evangeline of course was Evangeline Ritter eventually. Elaine, the older girl, taught school in the Vineyard Haven school for years and years. I guess half the kids in town went to Elaine Merrill's fourth grade. She was there for a long time. I recall, I remember Mr. Merrill was trying to keep the town in the dry state, staged a few raids on places that were supposed to be selling liquor illegally, and confiscating the same. One raid was on Dr. Lane. Dr. Lane admitted he was breaking the law, selling liquor without a license and all that sort of thing. But anyway, Rev. Merrill confiscated it all. I don't know where they stored it, but I think Charlie finally sought it out and found it. Charlie was quite a fellow! There's been several ministers there since, of course. Let me see - maybe I can find them in this little article here, and find out who was there after Mr. Merrill. Yeah, I see Alfred Fairbrother was a minister there for awhile. Then comes Charles A. Merrill, Henry Alger, Chester P. Hanson, Willard F. Johnson, Albert Freeman, Ondon(?) P. Stairs(?), and M. Stetson Lincoln. The pastor at the time this pamphlet was written was Howard C. Whitcomb. I would guess that would be around 1961-62, somewhere in there.

The next building was the Association Hall, now it's the Katherine Cornell Memorial Building. The town offices are there. In the old days it was owned by Captain Gilbert Smith. And at one time the town fire department was in one side of it, on the west side. There was some horse-drawn apparatus in there I remember seeing the old fire wagon with the looked like fiber buckets and the helmets and the whole works there. Also a little two-wheeled reel of hose that the men would run through town pulling and running to the fire with this thing. The other piece of apparatus was arranged to be moved by horses,but I think after a while they lashed this piece of apparatus onto the back of a car, and towed it that way. There was a fire bell up in the tower, I guess it's still up there, they used to ring when there was a fire. And what else? They had a big tower in the back where they would hoist up their hoses to dry after they'd used them. At one time they were holding school classes where the town offices are now. I can't remember the reason unless it was when they were building the new section on the old school there, the wing on the old school on the west side. I do remember going there for boy scout meetings. Dr. Fairbrother was the scout master. We'd have our meetings there, and that was right there where the town offices are today. Oh, so much for the Association Hall.

The next building's a little barn, or not a little barn, a good-sized barn.

And on the corner was a house owned by Henry Ottowell(?). The original owner was Dr. Winthrop Butler. And that house has seven different types of fences around it, all kinds: picket, rail, pipe rail, and all kinds of fences. Seven different kinds. Quite an old house.

Okay, we'll cross over Franklin Street, on the corner of Franklin and Spring Street, the home of Dr. O. S. Mayhew, who had his office down on Main Street. His widow lives there now, with his son I believe. Dr. Mayhew inherited Dr. Winthrop Butler's business when Dr. Butler gave up. Of course it was sort of odd they're right on opposite corners there. In fact Dr. Winthrop Butler brought me into the world. Directly across the street is Dr. O. S. Mayhew, who brought my daughter into the world. So, here we go.

Now the next house, as I remember it, was occupied by Horace Tilton. Later it was occupied by Mr. Erbin(?) Lance. I believe, or I think, Mr. Lance's wife may have been Horace Tilton's daughter. They lived there for a long time.

And then this house was a woman that was called the "Cookie Lady" by all the kids going to the Tisbury School. Once a week, on their return from school, heading towards home, they all would stop at this lady's house, and she'd hand out these fresh baked cookies. Came to be known as the Cookie Lady and they all looked forward to stopping there. Her name I believe was Miss Gardener.

Then we come to the William S. Swift House. I don't know who the owner is now. At one time it belonged to Carlton Murphy. But the Swift Family owned it for a good many years. William Swift was a town clerk for a long long time. He also was surveyor, had several children. Later on - I believe it was after, or it may have been between the the time that Mr. Murphy bought the house and William Swift family may have still owned it, but there was a Dr. Kingsbury in there, somewhere in the 1920's. Well Dr. Kingsbury supposedly could cure anything, including arthritis. I know people went to him for the cure, and what he had was a black box of some sort with a blinking light in it, and he had a metal plate he'd put on your forehead and another one on your wrist, and he would turn it on and this would supposedly cure your arthritis after a few treatments. He wasn't there too long. But I don't know how many people were cured from it, I guess not too many.

The next house was Herbert Smith house. He was married to Ella Holmes. That would be Rudolpphus Holmes' sister I believe.

Then we come up to the corner house, which was built by Tom Mosher, and occupied by Tom Mosher and his family for a good many years. In fact today it is occupied by one of his grandsons, Gary Mosher.

Now we've arrived up to Look Street. Well, we'll cross over Look Street, and the next house on the corner is Dr. David Brush's house. It was his office at one time. I believe his daughter and his widow live there now. That house isn't too too old.

But the next house is, going up. It was a house that was owned by Frank and Katori(?) Golart. Now they were the parents of Frank and George Golart, and we always called it the George Golart House. And ar the present time, Jean Canha lives there. That would be George Golart's granddaughter. Real old house.

Now we're at the corner of Pine Street. Well, let's turn on Pine Street a little bit, and go along. On the left hand side would be the John B. Luce House, big house that sets back of the shrubbery there, and a stone wall in the front I believe. Priscilla Webb lives there now, and that's John B.'s daughter.

And then we go back a little bit on the left, and through the old Catholic Church is located. I believe it has since been bought by town school system, and I don't know what they're going to do with it. But that's the old Catholic Church, right at the head of Spring Street.

Spring Street - South Side

Going over to the other side of Spring Street, and going down the hill again, heading east. Let's see. Well slightly up street from there towards the Tisbury School was Mrs. Furniss had a house there. It is now belongs to John Forbes. He and his family live there. Coming back down again, I guess it is still there, is a barn, called the William Look Barn. Lawrence Winterbottom used it for quite a while. Still does I guess.

Then we come to corner house which is the Lawrence Winterbottom house which is a fairly new house. Lawrence's wife was William Look's daughter. Her name was Hazel Look, now Hazel Winterbottom.

Well, crossing Look Street, right on the corner, is the William Look house, occupied at the present time by his daughter Josephine Look, who worked in the town offices for a long tim, and is now retired.

The next one is a little bungalow there, was the Edson Baxter House. It was owned by Walter Flanders at one time, also owned by Herbert Smith I believe, Bert Smith. Walter owned it for a long time, and now it belongs to the Costa Family.

The next house, well Freeman Downey lived in it for a long time as I remember. Who else? Well, it used to be the F. P. Luce house, Frank P. Luce House, and at one time it had tennis courts in the back. They were built for Ester Luce, who was Dr. Mayhew's wife, eventually, and she did play tennis there. Then it became the Van Doorn House. They lived there for quite a bit.

So we come down to the next home, which used to be the Ettema(?) Kay(?) Home, and Addie Smith lived there too. Also Freeman Downey owned it for a long time. It's owned now by Mr. Beach.

Next house is the Samuel Brush house in my day, and Dr. David Brush, his son, had his first office there in the front of the house. When he graduated from Tufts Medical School he set up business there. He was there for quite a while until he built the house up on the corner of Look and Spring Street. Mr. Brush, his father, was a house painter. I don't know who owns the house now. Can't remember. Oh - a woman doctor, I can't remember her name.

Okay, coming back down, we come to the Gilbert Smith house. Big old house, right at the head of Franklin Street. Right across Spring Street of course, at the head of Franklin Street. The property on that house ran from street to street, still does, from Spring Street to William Street. He was a retired sea captain, old whaling captain, and he did own the Association Hall at that time. He eventually sold it to the town, practically gave it to them. I don't think he charged them too much, I don't remember how much, but it wasn't very much, and the town acquired it, but it used to be owned by Captain Gilbert Smith.

The next house is the Bovee House, a large house that sets pretty well back from the street. It actually fronts on William Street, but the back part of it is on Spring Street. This was the site of the old mill, years back. It was moved from there down to the property now owned by Donald Tilton off Main Street. Then it was moved once more to the property now owned by William Snow, and it is part of the Snow house. The old mill.

Then coming back down, on the corner of William and Spring Street is the home of Hector Aslin(?) at the present time. It used to be the John Lambert House, Vinal Lambert, and we described that one I think on the William Street tour. Also the one across the street was the S. C. Luce Sr. house, which we told about on the William Street tour.

Now we come down to the, what I remember as the Macombeer House. A man by the name of Macomber lived there when I was young, and he worked for the SBS Company. Later it was bought by Walter Flanders. He was there for a long time. His family does still own it. The original house at this spot was destroyed by fire in 1883, that big fire that swept Main Street, and it is said that the village flagpole, the heel of it is still buried under the cement walk in the Flanders house here. Don't know where I saw that bit of information, but somewhere along the way!

The next house is a little bit of a question mark in my mind. The only people I remember living there in the old days was Elmer Chadwick and his family. I can't recall who owned it. I've asked a few people, and haven't come up with an answer yet. One day we may find out. But that is the house that's right directly in back of the building that's on the corner of Main and Spring Street.

That building is the old Moray(?) Building. Old Come and See Shop which we described on the Main Street Tour.

Well we've arrived back down on Main Street, and that concludes our tour of Spring Street.