Old Whaling Church // 1843

Methodists on Martha’s Vineyard arguably left the largest lasting mark between religious groups on the island between Wesleyan Grove in Oak Bluffs and this stunning church in Edgartown. The Methodists in Edgartown grew with the success of the whaling industry there and their former church was outgrown, requiring a larger and more prominent worshipping space in town. Designed by Frederick Baylies, Jr., the Old Whaling Church was built by skilled shipwrights for Edgartown’s Methodist whaling captains and is regarded as one of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture in New England. The Old Whaling Church was not only funded by mariners and those dedicated to seafaring trades, it was quite literally built by them, too. Baylies hired a crew of local carpenters who were equally as skilled in building churches as they were in constructing ships. The church is topped by a Gothic Revival clock tower which has crenellations, rounded arches, engaged pilasters, dentil cornice moldings and four spires capped with gilded acanthus leaf finials. The church was acquired by the Vineyard Trust in 1980, and they converted the old sanctuary into a performing arts space. The congregation meets in the former sanctuary in the summer months and in the vestry in the winter with its smaller numbers.

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