The Rich History of Edgartown

Nestled on the eastern shores of Martha's Vineyard, the history of Edgartown unfolds like a captivating story, woven with threads of seafaring adventures, whaling prowess, and timeless charm. In this article, we embark on a journey through time to explore the captivating history of Edgartown.

Edgartown's Colonial Roots

The history of Edgartown traces its origins back to the early colonial period. Established in 1642, it was originally known as Great Harbor and was part of the larger island of Martha's Vineyard. However, it wasn't until 1671 that the town was officially incorporated as "Edgartown." This name pays homage to Edgar, a son of James II of England, and it reflects the town's English colonial heritage.

Whaling Glory Days

Edgartown's history is indelibly tied to the sea. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the town became a hub of whaling activity, with numerous ships setting sail from its picturesque harbor. Whaling was the lifeblood of Edgartown, and the town prospered as its whalers ventured far and wide in search of the precious bounty of the ocean.

The history of Edgartown resonates with the stories of courageous whalers who braved treacherous waters in pursuit of their quarry. Their tales of harrowing adventures and incredible bravery are immortalized in local lore, and you can still catch a glimpse of this era in the beautifully preserved Captain's Houses that line the streets.

Preserving History

One of the most remarkable aspects of the history of Edgartown is its dedication to preserving its heritage. The town boasts a plethora of well-preserved historic buildings, many of which date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Stroll down North Water Street, and you'll find a picturesque row of Greek Revival and Federal-style homes that stand as a testament to the town's architectural history.

Among these historic treasures is the Old Whaling Church, an iconic edifice built in 1843. Today, it serves as a cultural center, hosting concerts, exhibitions, and other events that celebrate the history of Edgartown and its enduring spirit.

A Seaside Playground

As we delve deeper into the history of Edgartown, it's important to acknowledge its transformation into a beloved seaside destination. With its pristine beaches and stunning coastal vistas, the town has become a sought-after vacation spot. Visitors flock to enjoy the same serene beauty that captivated whalers and seafarers centuries ago.

The historic harbor, once a bustling port for whaling vessels, now plays host to sailboats and yachts, creating a vibrant maritime scene. The lighthouse at Edgartown Harbor, another historical gem, continues to guide ships safely along the coast, evoking the maritime history of Edgartown.

A Blend of Past and Present

In the heart of Edgartown's historic district, you'll find a unique blend of the past and the present. Historic homes have been lovingly restored and repurposed into charming bed-and-breakfasts, boutiques, and restaurants. Visitors can dine in historic inns and savor locally sourced cuisine while surrounded by the echoes of centuries gone by.


In closing, the history of Edgartown is a compelling tale of resilience, adventure, and transformation. From its colonial roots to its glory days as a whaling center and its present-day status as a beloved coastal destination, Edgartown's history is alive and well in its well-preserved buildings and rich traditions. As you explore the picturesque streets and scenic landscapes, you can't help but feel a deep connection to the past and a sense of wonder at the enduring legacy of this charming Martha's Vineyard town. 

Whether you're a history enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply seeking a peaceful coastal getaway, Edgartown's rich history and timeless beauty offer something for everyone to savor and enjoy. So, take a step back in time and immerse yourself in the captivating history of Edgartown, where the past meets the present along the shores of Martha's Vineyard.

If you’re planning a trip to the island of Martha’s Vineyard, consider renting a car, truck, SYV, or Jeep from MV Auto Rental. We happily provide our valued customers with complimentary pick-up at all of the Oak Bluffs, Vineyard Haven and Edgartown Inns and Hotels in order to make your trip to the Island even easier. To make it even easier for you, MV Auto Rental has six (6) convenient locations.

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