Cooke House and Legacy Gardens

A New Life and Vision for Edgartown’s most Historic Property

Today, as the Martha’s Vineyard Museum makes a vitally needed move into a larger home in the historic Marine Hospital in Vineyard Haven, we have an opportunity to restore, repurpose and enliven the very heart of our original home in Edgartown – and of the colonial village itself: the Cooke House and its colonial gardens. We hope to engage the support of Edgartown families who want to dedicate their commitment to the island of Martha’s Vineyard and Edgartown – creating an enduring legacy of place for generations of families right in the heart of Edgartown.

Edgartown’s singular history begins on the lands surrounding the Cooke House, where the Martha’s Vineyard Museum was originally located in 1932 as the Dukes County Historical Society. The Cooke House is the oldest structure standing on its original site, established on the first street deeded to the town by the founding Mayhew family. Colonial settlement as well as the first Christian meetinghouse, an early courthouse, the first custom house and important whaling enterprises all took root and grew from here, evolving over time into the Edgartown we know and cherish today.

Cooke House Gardens conceptual drawing

With the move, the Museum can now focus on the Cooke House’s unique position in Edgartown’s history. Ironically, moving the operations to Vineyard Haven will give the Museum a renewed ability to focus attention on its Edgartown history and Cooke House program. The Museum will form the Cooke House and Family Legacy Garden Committee to ensure proper stewardship of the house and gardens. The Committee will include Edgartown community members as well as key Museum staff to oversee this project to both protect and enhance this historically vital asset. By engaging everyone interested in the history of our village, the Committee hopes to make this vision a reality.


The Museum plans to revitalize the landmark Cooke House and Gardens to create a portal of discovery and a permanent legacy for past and future generations of families and visitors. The Museum will retain the original lot on which the circa 1740 Cooke House and its adjoining garden sit. The proposed funding will:

  • Restore, revitalize and share the Cooke House and its unique historic significance;
  • Enhance, expand and endow the property’s colonial garden;
  • Expand and deliver educational programming at this location, a strategic priority for the Museum; and
  • Protect the entire original property forever with permanent conservation restrictions.

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The first task is to guarantee that the property is never developed. The Board of the MV Museum and the Edgartown Conservation Commission have agreed to place a permanent legally binding conservation restriction over the entire property ensuring the property’s protection. We have succeeded in raising the necessary $500,000 to extinguish the remaining development rights on the property so that our collective improvements and programming will stand the test of time.


One of our primary goals is to further preserve, restore and reanimate the circa 1740 Cooke House. The historic house is already a treasured and fundamental asset that can be more fully integrated into our island-wide programming and curriculum.


The Cooke House itself represents 300 years of Edgartown history, and with the restoration of the historic house and gardens, it becomes an incredible educational tool in its own right. The Cooke House project and its programmatic expansion perfectly exemplify the Museum’s new mission and commitment to making the institution an agent of community-building and creative learning.

The Museum’s Education Department has a proven track record. Next to the public schools, the Museum is one of the largest, if not the largest, educational service provider to children on the Island, providing two-thirds of the Island’s school children with vibrant multisensory curriculum. The expanded Cooke Street educational programs will continue to focus on critical and creative thinking and further infuse our Island’s history, culture, horticulture, agriculture, nature and art with fun.

Program uses


We propose that the Cooke House, the oldest building on site in Edgartown, have gardens and outdoors spaces to reflect its historic importance. Several areas will be redesigned in order to:

  • Re-establish colonial gardens, teaching the importance of hearth, home, sustainability and medicinal plants in the three hundred years of the Cooke House’s history
  • Encourage contemplative space
  • Enhance existing educational programs and create new possibilities for additional educational events.


Together we can transform this property into a place where families, young students, and new visitors can come to explore, enjoy and discover the wonders of Edgartown’s past, present and future. Families and friends can leave an enduring legacy by making a gift that both honors joyful memories and guarantees the preservation of an historic jewel for future generations.


Cooke House Gardens, an approximately 17,400 square foot historic home and public garden in the heart of historic Edgartown, is a $1,500,000 project. There are three components of the project:

    1. Property Protection – COMPLETED!
      Purpose(s) Amount Notes
      Permanently protect the entire original property $500,000 Extinguish development rights on 4,643 sq. ft. with permanent conservation restrictions
    2. Capital Improvements to Property
      Cooke House Improvements and Restoration$250,000

      1. Exterior: roof, windows, stone foundation
      2. Interior: stabilization and historic preservation
      Purpose(s) Amount Notes
      Garden $250,000
      1. Hardscape: all fountains pathways, walkways, parking, fences, arbors, gates
      2. Outbuildings: potter’s shed and lavatory
      Subtotal $500,000
    3. Property Maintenance and Programming
      Endowment/ Restricted Funds$500,000Ongoing funding of $20,000 for both garden/facility and programming (at 4% /yr.)

      Purpose(s) Amount Notes

Anticipated annual budget for maintenance and programming (from endowment interest):

Annual Budget Amount
1. Garden and Facilities Maintenance
Garden Service
Restroom/Facilities Service
2. Education Programming
Summer Staff 10 weeks (10 wks. @ $1,000/wk.)
Subtotal $20,000

TOTAL (Capital Improvement + Maintenance/Program Fund + Property Protection): $1,500,000

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