On an island full of natural beauty and remarkable trails to hike, there is one that is truly set apart from all the others on Martha’s Vineyard. The Brickyard is full of history and beauty with its location on the scenic north shore of the island along Vineyard Sound. This 20-acre property, now managed by The Trustees, opened to the public in 2020 and it’s a perfect addition to our Vineyard Bucket List video series – Martha’s Vineyard Bucket List: Discovering The Brickyard.
Join us for an experience that offers you a glimpse into the industrial history of Martha’s Vineyard along with a memorable island hike.
Martha’s Vineyard Bucket List: Discovering The Brickyard And Menemsha Hills
To get to The Brickyard, you begin at The Trustees well known property, Menemsha Hills. Here you will find about 20 parking spots, which definitely fill up during the summer months.
There are a number of different trails you can take at Menemsha Hills, but The Brickyard is definitely one of our favorites. It is about 1.6 miles to and from the site, so a little over 3 miles for the experience.
The trail is lovely in and of itself. There are moments where you can stop and enjoy a view of the Vineyard Sound, and of course, there are lots of birds and little critters to see. Just follow the signs to The Brickyard and you will come to a dirt road. You quickly get a glance at the 45-foot tall chimney stack that The Brickyard is famous for.
Martha’s Vineyard Bucket List: Discovering The Brickyard – An Industrial Site In Chilmark
As you get closer you can see just how large and amazing the chimney stack is. There are also a number of gears on the site. Though they seem like well-placed pieces of industrial art, they were once instrumental in the brick making process. There is also the remnants of a water wheel that was used to help power the machinery.
This area has a rich industrial history going back to the 1720’s when there was a grist mill on the other side of the property, which was then replaced by the first brickyard. Where the chimney now stands is considered the “new site.”
Why was a brickyard built here? The north shore cliffs were rich with clay for the bricks, it was close to Vineyard Sound for easy transport, and on this property, there was a power source — Roaring Brook which is still running its course. It was an ideal location.
You may also notice the upper ridge of the property that is lined with stone. It was here that the manager’s house could be found, in addition to housing for seasonal workers. Workers were on-site as long as the weather permitted. Brickmaking was a seasonal operation on the Vineyard.
The last owner of the Brickyard was Boston banker Nathanial Harris. He had named his company the Vineyard Brick & Tile Works. His company shipped as many as 800,000 bricks a year aboard schooners docked at the edge of the Brickyard in Vineyard Sound. The operation was very successful and construction projects from Boston to Newport to New York used bricks made in Chilmark. Next time you are in Boston be sure to admire the brickwork!
Unfortunately, a great storm in 1888 destroyed the docks used for the boats to ship the bricks to the mainland, and in addition, railroads had rendered the brickworks almost obsolete, since it was much easier to transport materials from other areas. Other businesses were created on the site but none survived. The property remained in the Harris family, and it was donated to The Trustees in 2014.
In 2019, the Trustees began to clear the land, and now we have the opportunity to visit this great place of island history. You can’t help but wonder what life was like at The Brickyard.
Martha’s Vineyard Bucket List: Discovering The Brickyard – More Than History
While the remains of the Brickyard are very interesting, the location also offers stunning views from the shoreline of Vineyard Sound out to the Elizabeth Islands. It is really quite lovely here, especially on a sunny, beautiful day.
Exploring The Brickyard is a memorable experience in nature and history, and belongs on everyone’s Vineyard Bucket List.
The Martha’s Vineyard Bucket List is our ongoing curated collection of the best Martha’s Vineyard vacation experiences and first-hand travel adventures. From exploring the island by tall ship or biplane to touring its African American Heritage Trail and historic lighthouses to discovering the best beach walks, sunsets, and farm to table adventures, the Martha’s Vineyard Bucket List is your ultimate insider guide. Click here to see the entire library.