59 School Street, Box 1310, Edgartown MA 02539 - 508.627.4441
Martha's Vineyard Museum MV Museum



Porter, Bell & Co.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Metal, glass, wood, paint

Gift of Mrs. Eban D. Bodfish

By the 1870s Edgartown businessmen observed with both envy and dismay the success of Cottage City (now called Oak Bluffs) as a tourist destination. The upstart development thrived while Edgartown's economy languished after the decline of whaling. Edgartown investors, with the backing of the town, decided to form the Martha's Vineyard Railroad to carry visitors from the ferry wharf in Cottage City to a new resort called the Mattakessett Lodge. Traveling along what is now State Beach, the train stopped at the depot in Edgartown before continuing to the lodge in Katama.

The railroad's beginning was inauspicious. The engine Active arrived in Woods Hole from Pittsburgh in August 1874, but before it could be transferred to a boat for transport to the Island, it fell off the wharf and into the water. After repair, the Active (soon to be renamed the Edgartown) was put into service without further incident. But the business was never profitable, lasting for just twenty-two years. It wasn't until the success of the Harbor View Hotel, built in 1891, that Edgartown began to rebound from its decades of depression.