The Cooke House
Bequest of Ethalinda Mayhew and purchase
The historical society that is now the Martha's Vineyard Museum was seven years old before it had a home for its growing collection. Early members stored documents, furniture, and other artifacts wherever they could find space. All that finally changed with the bequest of Ethalinda Mayhew in 1930. She had lived in Edgartown in a house on Cooke Street, just southeast of where it intersected School Street. Upon her death, her one-third share of the house was bequeathed to the society, and the rest was purchased from the other family members who held shares.
The house had changed little since the 1700s, when it was built. It never had a heating system or plumbing. Original building records have never been found, so the construction date remains elusive. Architectural details, archaeological excavations, and the scanty and ambiguous records that do exist suggest the house may have been built in the 1720s. Small rooms, low ceilings, chamfered posts and beams, acorn-shaped drops adorning the stairway, and other details were common during that era.
Three generations of Cookes raised their families in the house during its first century. Temple Philip Cooke and his wife, Jane Daggett, were the first, followed by their son Thomas and his wife, Abigail Coffin, and then their son Thomas Jr. and his wife, Elizabeth Mayhew. Thomas and Thomas Jr. were customs officers for the port of Edgartown and worked out of this house. After the Cookes, the house changed hands four times before it finally became a museum in 1932.