The seeds of Oak Bluffs sprouted in August 1835 from a handful of tents pitched amid a grove of oak trees for a week of spiritual rejuvenation. By 1880, this Methodist revival meeting in the Camp Ground had grown into a summer city of a thousand wood frame tents and cottages.
Initially a part of Edgartown, Oak Bluffs was once known as the Cottage City of America. Soon church folk from all over the country gathered here for the Martha's Vineyard Camp Meeting. They came to preach, pray, reflect and repent in a spirit of religious fervor. As stores, hotels and larger homes sprang up around Cottage City, it developed into a seaside resort.
Oak Bluffs is a relatively young town, by Island standards, and since its economy had more to do with recreation than with the time-honored whaling or shipping trades of Edgartown and Vineyard Haven, it evolved with a much more frivolous, light-hearted air.
Instead of serviceable, weather-hardy salt-boxes or dignified captains' houses, Oak Bluffs filled with frilly, even gaudy, multi-colored gingerbread cottages--"unwinterized wooden tents" erected to replace the earlier Methodists' canvas ones.
Oak Bluffs businesses also leaned toward pure entertainment--there were theaters, a giant roller skating rink, hotels, and a carousel (still in operation).
Before the turn of the century, townsfolk were feeling their own needs, separate from Edgartown, so community leaders began agitating for separation. In 1880, they broke away and renamed the town Cottage City. In 1907 they renamed it as Oak Bluffs.
As the Vineyard's first summer resort, Oak Bluffs fostered a vacation economy that soon spread throughout the Island to replace the disappearing whaling economy.
Further descriptions are available for: