Grange Hall is one of my favorite traditional buildings because of how it looks, where it is, and how it’s used. It’s simple symmetry, with tall divided light windows, shingle exterior and welcoming front porch, makes me stop and stare, every time I pass by.
Grange Hall is a post and beam agricultural building, a barn, built in 1859 by the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society. It is one of several buildings on this island owned and managed by the Preservation Trust, now re-named The Vineyard Trust. Martha’s Vineyard is an island off the southeastern coast of Massachusetts; my family’s summer vacation destination for two generations. A lot has been written about Martha’s Vineyard in part because writers live here, or visit, especially when U.S. Presidents show up.
Grange Hall is in West Tisbury, several miles from the busy towns on the island’s harbors. Like other Granges around rural America, it is a gathering place. Early on it was where farmers traded best practices and bartered for goods. For a long time, it was the site of the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Fair, featuring contests of all kinds, from blue ribbon hogs to blueberry pies. Now it hosts a farmer’s market and craft fairs. My grown kids still display, with pride, Ag Fair ribbons won for art projects, things made with clamshells and driftwood.
The Vineyard Trust manages other historic sites around this island, from the Flying Horses Carousel in Oak Bluffs to the Sculpin Gallery in Edgartown to Alley’s General Store in West Tisbury. The Trust hosts lectures, book signings and other special events which make their historic buildings more relevant than the typical behind-the-velvet-rope old house museums you visited in fifth grade. It’s a good example of how Preservation organizations everywhere are making themselves more useful, less stuffy and more engaging. Down island in Edgartown, the Trust hosts historic walking tours.
Grange Hall is a place where memories have been made. It’s creaky floors, rough-hewn beams and wavy glass windows have enchanted farmers, fishermen, folk artists and friends for 150 years.