Gingerbread Houses of Martha’s Vineyard

In Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts you can find the fairytale-like “gingerbread houses” which are a much-loved architectural attraction on the island. These vibrant Victorian cottages are clustered together, each with a quaint and colorful design reminiscent of the house made of gingerbread and candy in “Hansel and Gretel.” These adorable homes are now exclusive summer cottages, but they come from humble origins.  

Laced with fanciful gingerbread details in an array of shapes and colors the 318 whimsical Victorian cottages are an exceptionally well-preserved collection of Methodist camp meeting houses.

In the 1800s, this corner of the island was frequented by a group of Methodists that held annual religious retreats and meetings on Martha’s Vineyard. At the time, they slept in tents during these summer gatherings, but as the camp meetings became more frequent the group built permanent cottages to accommodate them year-round.

The original cluster of 500 cottages was initially known as “Cottage City,” until the name was changed to Oak Bluffs in 1880. The charming storybook design is actually an architectural style called Carpenter’s Gothic that was popular at the time. But these individually decorated cottages, painted with bright and vivid colors with candy-like pillars and ornaments, became known as the “gingerbread houses.” 

Today, 300 gingerbread houses remain in the Oak Bluffs Campground, as well as the Cottage Museum at the entrance to the village, which features a prototype cottage furnished as it would have looked in the 1800s. The tabernacle sits in the center of the complex, which still functions as a religious facility.

Union Chapel

In contrast to the small quaint gingerbread houses you can also see some incredible large mansions at Oak Bluffs showing that this island has become a playground for the rich and well-to-do.

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