Let's raise Funds, our Voices,
and the Roof!
A Beacon to All
In 1835, Jeremiah Pease, along with six men from the Edgartown Methodist Church, secured a half acre of land for the purpose of holding a religious camp meeting on Martha’s Vineyard, following the religious camp meeting movement of the 19th century. This site became known as Wesleyan Grove. A shed was constructed out of driftwood for the preachers, with a pulpit built onto the front. Past the area of worship, a semi-circle of society tents was formed for housing attendees.
By 1879 a more permanent structure was needed for worship to replace the mammoth tent that had been used in the MVCMA’s epicenter of the community [the road now known as Trinity Circle]. The intent was to build a wooden Tabernacle, but the expense was too great. A cottage owner named J. W. Hoyt offered to construct one of cast iron for the budgeted amount, which was started in late spring and opened for the first religious service in July of that year.
The great lighted cross was added to the top of Tabernacle in 1926. It towers above as a “Beacon to All” across Nantucket Sound. At the heart of the community, the Tabernacle has been a hub for religious and cultural activities on the Island for over a century. The Tabernacle is an example of extraordinary 19th century architectural design innovations and one of the few remaining wrought iron structures of its type created at that time.
The Tabernacle was declared a Save America’s Treasures project on July 28, 2000.
Protecting the Tabernacle for Future Generations
It's an architectural gem, an historic treasure, a gathering place like no other, and only to be found on the Vineyard. Praise be!
- Author and Historian, David McCullough
The Tabernacle, which is the largest covered outdoor performance space on the Island, has been a center for cultural, religious, and social activities on the Island for more than a 100 years. In 1978, the Tabernacle and the Campground were listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 2000, it was given recognition by the National Trust for Historic Preservation "Save America's Treasures" Project. In 2005, it was recognized by the United States Department of Interior, along with the rest of the MVCMA site, as a National Historic Landmark.
The designation reads "This site has been found to possess exceptional significance in illustrating or commemorating the history of the United States for the benefit and inspiration of the American people."
The Tabernacle is one of the few remaining examples of wrought iron structures created at the time - along with the Eiffel Tower.
In 1999 a major fundraising campaign was undertaken to restore the Tabernacle to its full grandeur, to upgrade utilities, including sound and lighting systems, and to preserve the structural integrity of the building.
This five phase restoration is the first substantial restoration of the Tabernacle since 1901:
We are now in the fifth and final phase or restoration which centers on the interior and the roof.
The Tabernacle's roof has outlived its expected useful life by more than 30 years, and is now 90 years old.
The roof must be replaced now.
Make your tax-deductible gift today so we can continue our traditions, while welcoming people from all over the world.
If you'd like to donate by check, please make it out to the MVCMA with a note in the memo as to what you'd like your donation to be used for (ie. Programs, Spiritual Life, The Tabernacle Restoration Fund, etc.).
Mailing Address :
P.O. Box 1685
Oak Bluffs, MA 02557
If you'd like to donate online, please click the below button to make a secure donation.
The Tabernacle has weathered time since 1879 on the grounds of the old Wesleyan Grove, now known as the Martha's Vineyard Camp Meeting Association, located in Oak Bluffs, MA.
It has been a destination for generations of Islanders and summer visitors alike. But, after serving so many so well, this "Iron Maiden", a majestic wrought iron marvel of 19th century architecture, is in need of an extensive restoration.
The Tabernacle has entered its final phase of a planned five phase restoration project which began in 1999. More than $2 million has been spent on the historically accurate restoration, but the Tabernacle will require an additional $2 million if it is to continue to be enjoyed and passed on to future generations.
Stabilize the wrought iron columns with new footings, anchors and braces
Completed at a cost of $340,000
Remove leaded paint from the interior wrought iron, paint the interior and replace interior lights with historically appropriate lights
Completed at a cost of $500,000
Restore cupola including replacing cross with a lit carbon cross
Completed at a cost of $635,000
Rebuild upper clerestory
Completed at a cost of $500,000
(Estimated cost of $7.3 million)
Restore iron trusses and historic benches and chairs (Complete)
Rebuild stage (Complete)
Replace corrugated asbestos roof
Add internal lighting at clerestories
Add accessory structure at east side of Tabernacle