Constructed by the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society at the crossroads of the island, the Grange Hall in West Tisbury is the center of agriculture and commerce for the Vineyard. The grand post and beam barn is an enduring landmark and serves as a gathering place for farmers, artisans, and residents.
In 1858, the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society was created, and its first fair was held. Funds raised from entrance fees were used to build a large structure that became the island’s Grange Hall. Built with post and beam joinery, the Grange is similar in construction and appearance to the barns that have dotted the island for many generations. Grange Hall differs from the barns used to shelter livestock, however. Rather than having stalls for horses or cattle, this building has an open floor plan on the lower level, and in place of the hayloft upstairs, there is a performance space with a stage and seating for 125 people. If the Grange looks familiar, that may be due to its similarities to the cottages found in the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association of Oak Bluffs. Like the Victorian-era cottages, Grange Hall has a sharply angled roof, a deep front porch, a central entrance with two flanking windows, and fretwork at the eaves and at the top of the posts supporting the porch roof.
Granges have been the heart of rural American communities for generations. The home of local chapters of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, Grange Halls are where farmers have traditionally gathered to learn new agricultural practices, develop strategic business partnerships, and barter goods and services. Grange Halls also serve as a gathering place for community celebrations and annual agricultural fairs.
The Grange Hall in West Tisbury is located in the heart of the island and is where the island’s farmers have always gathered to sell their products, learn from one another, network, and socialize. The open hall on the first floor is ideal for large gatherings such as community meetings, dances, social events, and Society-related ceremonies and meetings. On the second floor, a full stage with drop scenery panels hosted presentations by Society members, concerts performed by local and traveling musicians, lectures made by politicians and traveling orators, vaudeville shows, theater productions, and other entertainments.
Perhaps most important of all, Grange Hall was the Society’s annual Agricultural Fair site. This cherished annual tradition was and continues to be a festive time for the agricultural community, island residents, and visitors. Held near the end of the growing season, this event allowed farmers to display their best work in the exhibition of produce, baked goods, preserves, handiwork, and livestock. Moreover, the Fair was a time to gather as a community to celebrate the importance of their work to the island’s well-being. Of course, it was also a time to seek a prize for best pie or most handsome goat and to let loose with a potluck dinner and dances.
Today, Grange Hall continues to serve the local community, hosting over 180 events a year, including art shows, nonprofit events, the Artisans Market, and fairs of all sorts. The 2nd-floor theater serves as the home of Circuit Arts, offering theater, music, and films all year round.
West Tisbury, MA