Chilmark, Massachusetts

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Chilmark, Massachusetts
Chilmark Store
Chilmark Store
Official seal of Chilmark, Massachusetts
Location in Dukes County in Massachusetts
Location in Dukes County in Massachusetts
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Country United States
State Massachusetts
County Dukes
Settled 1660
Incorporated 1694
 • Type Open town meeting
 • Total 100.4 sq mi (260.1 km2)
 • Land 19.0 sq mi (49.3 km2)
 • Water 81.4 sq mi (210.8 km2)
Elevation 91 ft (28 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 866
 • Density 46/sq mi (17.6/km2)
Time zone Eastern (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) Eastern (UTC-4)
ZIP code 02535
Area code(s) 508/774
FIPS code 25-13800
GNIS feature ID 0618288

Chilmark is a town located on Martha's Vineyard in Dukes County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 866 at the 2010 census.[1] The fishing village of Menemsha is located on the northwestern side of the town along its border with the town of Aquinnah. In 2005 it was confirmed to have the highest average property value of any city or town in Massachusetts.[citation needed]


Chilmark was first settled in 1660 by James Allen, William Peabody and Lt. Josiah Standish (son of Captain Myles Standish) in the southern portion of Tisbury. The town officially incorporated on September 14, 1694, the first town to separate from the two original towns of Tisbury and Edgartown. The new town was named for Chilmark, the ancestral home of the family of Governor Thomas Mayhew of Tisbury in the English county of Wiltshire.

The town was once known for its unusually high percentage of deaf citizens. In 1854, Chilmark had a deaf population of one in every 25 people, while the national average was one deaf person in 5,728. (See Martha's Vineyard Sign Language.) Today the town is mostly residential, with a small working harbor in Menemsha along the Vineyard Sound side of the town.

In August 2009, 2010 and 2011, President Barack Obama and his family vacationed in Chilmark, renting the Blue Heron Farm.[2][3]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a land area of 19.0 square miles (49.3 km2).[1] Chilmark ranks 192nd of the 351 communities in the Commonwealth in terms of land area. Chilmark is bordered by Vineyard Sound to the northwest, West Tisbury to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the south and Aquinnah to the southwest.

The town includes the island of Noman's Land, which lies southwest of Martha's Vineyard. Because of Noman's Land, the town is officially the second most southerly point in Massachusetts (the south shore of Nantucket is approximately a kilometer south of the southernmost point on Noman's Land). Chilmark has a series of small ponds along the Atlantic side of the town, and it shares Tisbury Great Pond to the east and Menemsha Pond and Squibnocket Pond to the southwest, along the Aquinnah town line. It is between these two ponds, which are 1,100 feet (340 m) apart at their closest point, that the only road to Aquinnah passes. Long Beach, privately owned, runs along the southern side of Squibnocket Pond and technically connects the towns. At one point in the late 17th and early 18th century, Squibnocket Pond was open to the sea. However, the barrier beach with its sand dunes eventually closed this opening permanently. Occasionally in winter storms, waves will wash across low points in the beach, but the beach itself has not been breached in a hundred years, unlike other barrier beaches on Martha's Vineyard.

Chilmark has the highest point on Martha's Vineyard, at the 308-foot (94 m) summit of Prospect Hill.[4]

The town has several sanctuaries and preserves, the largest of which being the Menemsha Hills Reservation just northeast of the village which shares that name. The town also has six beaches; one is at Menemsha, another on the inner shore of Menemsha Bay, and the others are all along the Atlantic coast. (Note that several of these beaches are restricted to landowners only, and those designated as public require a beach pass.) There is also a boat launch in Menemsha, as well as a Coast Guard station, which recently burned to the ground, in Mememsha Creek (harbor).

The town has no direct access to the mainland via ferry or by air; Martha's Vineyard Airport is in neighboring West Tisbury, and the Woods Hole Ferry is in Vineyard Haven, which is 12 miles (19 km) northeast of the town center.


Historical population
Year Pop. ±%
1850 747 —    
1860 654 −12.4%
1870 476 −27.2%
1880 494 +3.8%
1890 353 −28.5%
1900 324 −8.2%
1910 282 −13.0%
1920 240 −14.9%
1930 252 +5.0%
1940 226 −10.3%
1950 183 −19.0%
1960 238 +30.1%
1970 340 +42.9%
1980 489 +43.8%
1990 650 +32.9%
2000 843 +29.7%
2010 866 +2.7%
Template:Historical populations/Massachusetts municipalities references

As of the census[5] of 2000, there were 843 people, 382 households, and 237 families residing in the town. The population density was 44.0 people per square mile (17.0/km²). There were 1,409 housing units at an average density of 73.6 per square mile (28.4/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 97.75% White, 0.36% African American, 0.12% Native American, 0.36% Asian, 0.71% from other races, and 0.71% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.83% of the population.

There were 382 households out of which 25.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.4% were married couples living together, 6.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.7% were non-families. Of all households 29.6% were made up of individuals and 9.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.21 and the average family size was 2.71.

In the town the population was spread out with 20.8% under the age of 18, 4.0% from 18 to 24, 23.7% from 25 to 44, 32.7% from 45 to 64, and 18.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 46 years. For every 100 females there were 96.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.9 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $41,917, and the median income for a family was $63,750. Males had a median income of $35,469 versus $33,281 for females. The per capita income for the town was $30,029. About 5.7% of families and 7.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.6% of those under age 18 and 4.3% of those age 65 or over.

Statistically, Chilmark ranks 324th in terms of population, and 311th by population density. It is the second smallest population on Martha's Vineyard (ahead of Aquinnah), but is the least densely populated town on the island.


On the national level, Chilmark is a part of Massachusetts's 10th congressional district, and is currently represented by Bill Keating. The state's senior member of the United States Senate is Elizabeth Warren. The state's junior Senator is Ed Markey.

On the state level, Chilmark is represented in the Massachusetts House of Representatives as a part of the Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket district, which includes all of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, as well as a portion of Falmouth. The town is represented in the Massachusetts Senate as a portion of the Cape and Islands district, which includes all of Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket and most of Barnstable County (with the exception of Bourne, Sandwich, Falmouth and a portion of Barnstable).[6] All of Dukes County is patrolled by the Fifth (Oak Bluffs) Barracks of Troop D of the Massachusetts State Police.[7]

Chilmark is governed on the local level by the open town meeting form of government, and is led by a board of selectmen. All of the town's facilities are centered at a location known as Beetlebung Corner. The Town Hall, Police Department and Fire Department share a building in the northern quadrant of the crossroads, and the post office and the town's Free Public Library occupy the southern. The current library opened in 2003, having outgrown the previous library just to the east of the current location at the corner.[8]


Chilmark is served by Chilmark Elementary School, which serves approximately fifty students from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. The rest of the town's pre-kindergarten through eighth grade population attends Up-Island Regional School in West Tisbury. Martha's Vineyard Regional High School, located in Oak Bluffs, serves the most of island's high school population. The Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School in West Tisbury also has a high school. The MVRHS's teams are nicknamed the Vineyarders, and their colors are violet and white. The school has a longstanding rivalry with Nantucket High School, with both competing for the Island Cup on an annual basis.

Notable residents

  • John Whiting, anthropologist; Ted Danson (actor); Mary Steenbergen (actress); John Belushi (actor); Alan Dershowitz (defense attorney); Karl Weckman (Ocean Spray Cranberry food science engineer and inventor of Ruby Red grapefruit juice)

Cultural references

On the television show The X-Files, Fox Mulder was raised in Chilmark. It was in Chilmark that his younger sister Samantha's alien abduction happened on November 27, 1973.

Chilmark is the setting of the wedding in the movie, Jumping the Broom.

At the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., there is a 1920 painting by artist Thomas Hart Benton called People of Chilmark. Benton first visited Chilmark in the summer of 1919. People of Chilmark was the artist's first masterpiece and, at 5½' × 6½', the largest painting he had executed to date.

Chilmark and Menemsha, the fishing village located on the northern end of the town, are also the locations of the fictional town of "Amity Island" in the 1975 Steven Spielberg blockbuster Jaws.


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): Chilmark town, Dukes County, Massachusetts". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Retrieved October 29, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Susan Milligan (20 August 2009). "For Obama, not the time for extended Vineyard rest". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 12 February 2013. But Obama is settling for a Sunday-to-Sunday sojourn. The White House has not released details of the Obamas' plans, but locals say the first family has rented the Blue Heron Farm in Chilmark, a 28-acre estate owned by William and Mollie Van Devender, both donors to Republicans. The property includes a swimming pool, access to a private beach, even a place to whack golf balls.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Erica Werner (19 August 2010). "Vacation time for the president". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 12 February 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. U.S. Geological Survey Squibnocket topographic map (1977)
  5. "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Index of Legislative Representatives by City and Town
  7. Station D-5, SP Oak Bluffs
  8. A History of the Chilmark Library

External links