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Marthas Vineyard (Wampanoag: ) is an island located south of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, known for being an affluent summer colony. It includes the smaller Chappaquiddick Island, which is usually connected to the larger island, though storms and hurricanes have been known to separate the two islands. The last such separation of the islands was in 2007, and as of April 2, 2015, the two islands are again connected.
Often called just "The Vineyard", the island has a land area of 100 square miles (260 km2). It is the 58th largest island in the United States and the third largest on the East Coast of the United States, after Long Island and Mount Desert Island. It is also the largest island not connected to mainland by a bridge or tunnel on the East Coast of the United States.
The island is located in Massachusetts, as a part of Dukes County, which also includes Cuttyhunk, as well as the island of Nomans Land, the latter of which is currently a US Wildlife preserve closed to the public, due to possible unexploded ordnance dating from its role as a practice bombing range from 1943-1996. The Vineyard was also home to one of the earliest known deaf communities in the United States; consequently, a special sign language, Marthas Vineyard Sign Language (MVSL), developed on the island.
The 2010 census reported a year-round population of 16,535 residents, although the summer population can swell to more than 100,000 people. About 56% of the Vineyards 14,621 homes are seasonally occupied.
Marthas Vineyard is primarily known as a summer colony, and it is accessible only by boat and air. However, its year-round population has grown considerably since the 1960s. Each decade from 1970 to 2000, Marthas Vineyard’s year-round population grew about a third, for a total of 145% or about 3 to 4% per year (46%, 30% and 29% in each respective decade). The population of Martha’s Vineyard was 14,901 in the 2000 Census and was estimated at 15,582 in 2004. (Dukes County was 14,987 in 2000 and 15,669 in 2004). Dukes County, which includes the six towns on Marthas Vineyard and Gosnold, grew by more than 10 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to Census data released Tuesday, gaining nearly 1,548 residents. The Islands population increased from 14,987 to 16,535.
A study by the Marthas Vineyard Commission found that the cost of living on the island is 60% higher than the national average, and housing prices are 96% higher. A study of housing needs by the Commission found that the average weekly wage on Marthas Vineyard was "71% of the state average, the median home price was 54% above the states and the median rent exceeded the states by 17%".
Originally inhabited by the Wampanoag, Marthas Vineyard was known in their language as Noepe, or "land amid the streams". In 1642, the Wampanoag numbered somewhere around 3,000 on the island. By 1764, that number had dropped by around 90% to 313.
A smaller island to the south was named "Marthas Vineyard" by the English explorer Bartholomew Gosnold, who sailed to the island in 1602. The name was later transferred to the main island. It is thus the eighth-oldest surviving English place-name in the United States. The islands namesake is not positively known, but it is thought that the name originated either with Gosnolds mother-in-law or his second child, both of whom were named Martha. His daughter was christened in St James Church (now St Edmundsbury Cathedral), Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, England and is buried in the Great Churchyard which lies in front of the Abbey ruins between St Marys Church and the Cathedral.
The island was also known as Martins Vineyard (perhaps after the captain of Gosnolds ship, John Martin); many islanders up to the 18th century called it by this name. The United States Board on Geographic Names worked to standardize placename spellings in the late 19th century, including the dropping of apostrophes. Thus for a time Marthas Vineyard was officially named Marthas Vineyard, but the Board reversed its decision in the early 20th century, making Marthas Vineyard one of the five placenames in the United States today with a possessive apostrophe.
The Vineyard grew as a tourist destination primarily because of its very pleasant summer weather (during summers, the temperature rarely breaks 32 °C / 90 °F) and many beautiful beaches. It is primarily a place where people go to relax. Most social life and activity takes place at peoples houses, not in the very small towns.
During the whaling era, wealthy Boston sea captains and merchant traders often created estates on Marthas Vineyard with their trading profits. Today, the Vineyard has become one of the Northeasts most prominent summering havens, having attracted numerous celebrity regulars.
The island now has a year-round population of about 15,000 people in six towns; in summer, the population increases to 100,000 residents, with more than 25,000 additional short-term visitors coming and going on the ferries during the summer season. The most crowded weekend is July 4, followed by the late-August weekend of the Agricultural Fair. In general, the summer season runs from June through Labor Day weekend, coinciding with the months most American children are not in school.
In 1985, the two islands of Marthas Vineyard and Chappaquiddick Island were included in a new American Viticultural Area designation for wine appellation of origin specification: Marthas Vineyard AVA. Wines produced from grapes grown on the two islands can be sold with labels that carry the Marthas Vineyard AVA designation. Marthas Vineyard was the home to the winemaker Chicama Vineyards in West Tisbury, though it closed after 37 years on August 10, 2008.
Other popular attractions include the annual Grand Illumination in Oak Bluffs; the Marthas VIneyard Film Center, an arthouse cinema operated by the non-profit Marthas Vineyard Film Society, which screens independent and world cinema all year long; the Marthas Vineyard Film Festival, which runs a winter film festival in March, a Summer Film Series and Cinema Circus every Wednesday in July and August, the Marthas Vineyard African-American Film Festival, which showcases the works of independent and established African-American filmmakers in August, and Marthas Vineyard International Film Festival in September; the Farm Institute at Katama Farm in Edgartown; and the Flying Horses Carousel in Oak Bluffs, the oldest operating platform carousel in the United States.