Museum Renovation and Restoration Project, Vineyard Haven
The Former Marine Hospital and St. Pierre School of Sport
Built in 1895, the 10,000-square-foot, 29-room U.S. Marine Hospital was perhaps the most prominent structure on the Vineyard Haven skyline. At that time, when Vineyard Sound was still known as the second busiest waterway in the world (after the English Channel), Vineyard Haven was visited by more merchant mariners every year than any other New England port except Boston. Some of those mariners came ashore sick, and others fell ill while laying over here.
Shipping traffic through Vineyard Haven declined with the 1916 opening of the Cape Cod Canal, but the marine hospital in Vineyard Haven stayed active. In 1935, a brick surgical wing was added. Wounded servicemen from both world wars convalesced at the hospital, and surgery was performed on local citizens as well.
After World War II, use of the hospital fell off, and the federal government sold the building to the Seamen's Friend Society in Boston in 1952. For the next seven years, it lay empty. In 1959 it was leased by the St. Pierre family to house their summer camp. Until 1977 it was an overnight camp. At the turn of the century, it was made into a day camp. Over the course of many decades, the camp served hundreds of children, both Islanders and seasonal visitors. In 2007, the tough decision was made to close the school.
The Museum's Mission
- For more than a decade, the Museum has recognized that its current Edgartown facilities are inadequate to fulfilling its mission and cannot be upgraded to allow us to conform to museum best practices regarding:
- Responsible collection stewardship
- Quality of exhibition and public programming space
- Better accessibility
- After extensive study, we determined that the Marine Hospital property in Vineyard Haven could be adapted to meet our needs.
- The Board raised $3.5 million for this project to date. This has allowed:
- A feasibility study
- Development of a master plan
- Purchase of the Marine Hospital property in September 2011 (no mortgage)
- Current site improvement work for events and programs
- Property maintenance for 2-to-3 years
- West Tisbury Land previously intended for museum expansion was sold to its adjacent neighbors, the Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Society and Polly Hill Arboretum.
- The Museum Board is convinced that taking advantage of this opportunity will enable us to better meet our responsibility to protect, preserve, and present the Museum's collections for the benefit of the people of Martha's Vineyard.
- We believe that the development of the Vineyard Haven site will be transformative to the institution's future.
Highlights of Proposed Future Plans
- The Museum will continue to operate the Thomas Cooke House as a seasonal museum in Edgartown.
- All other museum functions will eventually move to the new Vineyard Haven location.
- A master plan has been developed that calls for:
- Restoration and renovation of the 1895 structure
- Addition of two new special-purpose buildings
- Provision of ample parking
- Creation of a park-like setting on the 4.4-acre site
- The Board's Development Committee is currently investigating phasing the project to take into account different fund-raising and use contingencies, but this investigation is not yet complete. We are not able to provide specific dates or costs for the building project.
- The Museum Board and staff are developing a new five-year strategic plan (2013-2017) that will inform future plans for the Edgartown campus and the new location, including possible phasing options. The strategic plan is expected to be complete early fall 2012.
Current Work: Spring and Summer 2012
- Landscaping improvements at the Marine Hospital site began in March 2012 and will continue throughout the summer.
- In cooperation with the Massachusetts Historical Commission and the Wampanoag tribe of Gay Head, the Museum conducted an archaeological survey to locate and identify archaeological evidence of past cultural activity.
- Site work has been designed to avoid negative impact on archaeologically sensitive areas.
- The first event to be held on the site was the Museum's Evening of Discovery annual gala on June 30, 2012. Landscape improvements completed in June consisted of
- Restoration of views of the site and from the site
- Creation of a lawn in front of the building that will be used for educational and social activities
"Museum Open House Unveils New Location's Ample Charms." Vineyard Gazette. 16 Dec. 2011.
"Vineyard Museum Will Move to the Old Marine Hospital in Tisbury." Martha's Vineyard Times. 14 Dec. 2011.