Meeting Place

How to get inside a house you thought was off limits

cottagesPhoto: Peter Simon

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living museum on the outside, the famous cottages of the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association are off-limits on the inside. Except—wait for it—for one. The Cottage Museum is the only place to see the inside of an Oak Bluffs gingerbread cottage, with an exhibit of typical furnishings and memorabilia including the rocking chair where President Ulysses S. Grant sat when he visited his friend Bishop Gilbert Haven, a summer resident of the camp ground who had served as a chaplain during the Civil War. The museum also has an original magic lantern film projector lighted with a candle from the days way, way before HD.

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Religious camp meetings were a huge trend in the 1830s, when Methodists encamped for the first time in Oak Bluffs. Eventually, they replaced their tents with 312 tiny wooden houses arranged in concentric circles around an open-air tabernacle. Many of the houses have been passed down from generation to generation, but the land on which they sit is owned communally.

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