The storybook “gingerbread houses” of Oak Bluffs are a highly beloved structural draw in Martha’s Vineyard; the cake-like village was first built as a 1900 campsite for Methodist Christians. The exciting Victorian-inspired lodges are huddled together and each one features a picturesque design that resembles that magical hut made from sweets in the fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel.” At present, the lovely houses serve as high-class summer cottages, although they share a humble past.
At one point in the 18th century, the area was visited by a congregation of Methodist Christians that organized spiritual seminars and gatherings on Martha’s Vineyard every year. During that time, the religious flock had tents for lodging on summer assemblies. After the camp gatherings became more regular though, the congregation decided to construct long-lasting lodging units to cater to the events for the entire year.
The first group of half a thousand cottages was originally called “Cottage City,” before it was eventually given the name Oak Bluffs in 1880. The lovely fairy tale design is, in fact, a type of architecture known as Carpenter’s Gothic that was well-known during the period. The independently styled cottages, however, became popular as “gingerbread houses” for their rich and vibrant coatings with sweet pillars and embellishments.
At present, 300 gingerbread houses are still standing on the camping site grounds of Oak Bluffs, including a Cottage Museum sitting at the entrance towards the village that boasts an archetype cottage design fitted to look exactly like it was in the 18th century. A tabernacle is situated at the heart of the complex, which remains as a religious feature today.
During one particular night in August, every cottage is furnished with paper lanterns, to further enhance their already magical appeal. The custom, known as Grand Illumination Night, started in 1869.
The most ideal time to visit the captivating cottages is during the summer season, as the sun’s rays make the houses even richer and more vibrant. You won’t pay a dime to tour around the campsite and taking pictures is permitted from the sidewalk. The Cottage Museum is accessible starting in the middle of May to the middle of October with a $3 admission fee.