Built Environment

The Vineyard’s beautiful, historic, and cohesive built environment – everything man-made – is among the most remarkable in the country and is an important part of the scenic beauty at the heart of the Island’s character, identity, and visitor-based economy.

Traditionally, Martha's Vineyard was made up of historic town and village centers – each with its own distinct character such as the white clapboard public buildings and grand residences of Edgartown, the fanciful multi-colored Victorian cottages in Oak Bluffs, and the fishing shacks of Menemsha – surrounded by traditional neighborhoods and linked by rural roads lined with stone walls and dotted by roadside farmhouses.

In recent decades, development has sometimes reinforced, sometimes undermined these historic patterns. Martha's Vineyard’s unique, coherent, high-quality built environment is increasingly threatened by demolition of significant older buildings, and by the construction of new buildings that are too big, that don’t fit their surroundings, or that are not environmentally sound.

The Vineyard needs to more actively preserve its distinct character and promote environmentally sound building. With care, we can ensure that, as the Island grows and changes, we preserve its distinct man-made character and significant features, and promote environmentally sound building.

This section of the website looks at four main aspects of the Island’s built environment.
  1. Community Character: This is the broad issue of maintaining general neighborhood and Island character, and ensuring that new construction is compatible with existing areas, including minimizing negative impacts on public areas and on abutters.
  2. Historic Resources: Particular attention is needed for the areas, buildings, and public spaces with cultural value to the community, including historic buildings and areas, and other resources such as stone walls, landscaping features, and archeological artifacts.
  3. Green Building: For new and existing buildings, we can increase the efficiency with which buildings use resources such as energy, water, and materials, while reducing building impacts on human health and the environment.
  4. Accessibility and Visitability: With our aging population, it is increasingly important that we design our buildings and settings so they can be used by people with limited mobility.


Adam Turner
Executive Director, responsible for Built Environment
508-693-3453 extension 111
Email: [email protected]

Office location:

Office location:

The Stone Building
33 New York Avenue
Oak Bluffs, MA 02557

Telephone: 508-693-3453
Fax: 508-693-7894

Mailing Address

Mailing address:

Martha's Vineyard Commission
P.O. Box 1447
Oak Bluffs, MA 02557

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