Then & Now: Main Street, Vineyard Haven

Then and now.

The first thing you notice when you compare the pictures is the absence of telephone poles in the older one. But that’s false advertising – the poles were painted out of the post card to make the town look more bucolic; in fact, Vineyard Haven had the first telephone line on the Island. It was set up in 1878.
Main Street was once a two-way street. Ruth Stiller, whose dad was one of the Cronig brothers who started the grocery store, remembers that the town changed to one-way in 1965. The next day, she says, “There was a man who came down the street the wrong way and crashed into fourteen cars.”   

Where Bunch of Grapes is now, a one-story grocery sported a big red sign, First National Stores. Bins of fruits and vegetables out front lured passers-by inside, where they’d call across the counter with their needs as clerks pulled requested items and packed them up nicely. Grocery boys would carry the bags out to customers’ cars, and never accepted a tip. They weren’t allowed!    

Next to First National, where CafĂ© Moxie now serves up chow, there was a barbershop owned by A.S. Andrews. Across Center Street, where Mardell’s Gifts and Jewelry is these days, was C.M. Vincent’s Paper Store, officially called The Paper Store. Research collected by Chris Baer of Edgartown ( indicates that Vincent’s didn’t limit itself to paper. It sold “cigarettes, chewing tobacco, mixed nuts, candy, gifts, and a lot of office supplies.” In 1940, after a remodeling, Vincent’s advertised book rentals. And it was open until an owlish 10 p.m., according to Marge Taylor, who worked there for many years after she got out of high school in 1941.   

The big linden tree across the street died of old age in 1996. During its long life, lots of concerts, bake sales, and Christmas caroling took place under its branches. When it came down, people took pieces for souvenirs.   

The Capawock Theater has lost its big vertical sign since the ’40s. Islanders saw their first movie in color there. And they can watch movies again, since the Capawock reopened last November, after extensive renovations.