Prior to 1866 the area now called Oak Bluffs was largely undeveloped with the exception of the famed Methodist meeting camp at Wesleyan Grove that had been established in 1835. By the 1860s the meeting camp was attracting large numbers of middle class visitors from Boston and surrounding towns who came for summer retreats; in 1868 approximately 600 tent and cottage lots were being leased in the Methodist compound. The Land & Wharf Company catalyzed this success into profit, by developing a more commercial presence on Circuit Avenue and developed housing on large lots to the east.
The first major structure built by the Land & Wharf Company was the Arcade Building. In it, they established their office from which they directed development of the resort. The central open arcade provided access to the campground from the heart of Oak Bluffs’ commercial area. The Arcade was designed by Boston carpenter/architect/inventor Samuel Pratt (1824-1920) who was also responsible for many of the cottages in Oak Bluffs. The Arcade remains a historically significant and well-preserved commercial building in town. My bad photo doesn’t do it justice! 😦