Winter Walks With The Trustees – The winter on Martha’s Vineyard is made for hiking and exploring. There is nothing more invigorating than hiking on a cold, sunny day. Ending up in
The Trustees conservation group, “which preserves, for public use and enjoyment, properties of exceptional scenic, historic, and ecological value in Massachusetts,” are offering people a chance to explore some of their incredible Island properties through guided tours. I know a lot of people like to follow their own path when hiking, but trust me,
Last month, the Winter Walk with The Trustees offered an outing to The Brickyard. But wait you say. That’s private
The Trustees have spent the Fall clearing the property, and you will not believe just how amazing it is now. You can see just how vast The Brickyard brick making factory was. It’s quite the sight. This is sure to be a hot spot all Summer long to visit.
Currently there is not a public access but the connecting path from Menemsha Hills, were you will park for this hike, is almost complete.
The Trustees are waiting to open the property because it is an archaeological site. There will be archeologists and students studying the site. It is one of the earliest industrial sites remaining on Martha’s Vineyard.
The Winter Walks With The Trustees series is typically the third Sunday of the month, weather dependent. For The Brickyard Walk, we all met at Menemsha Hills. We were lucky enough to have Christopher Kennedy as our guide. Chris is a treasure trove of information about Trustees’ properties and Island history.
There, we got into Trustees vans and went to a private entrance to The Brickyard. This trip was the first one offered to the public since the property has been cleared.
In 2010, the Harris family gifted the property to the Trustees. On this Winter Walk, Vita Harris was with us. It was her mother who made the gift. So, not only did we learn so much from Chris, but Vita shared her family stories with us throughout our walk.
As we walked to The Brickyard, we passed other smaller sites that were once small factories. Martha’s Vineyard wasn’t always a hot spot for tourists and summer fun. It was very much a working community back in the 1800’s.
Up-Island was particularly good for
As we walked, we traveled with Roaring Brook, which was not only the source of power for The Brickyard but is also special in its own right — clay deposits that are four million years old have been found in the brook. Also, it is one of the only places in New England that is naturally stocked with brook trout.
Chris and Vita regaled us with stories and historical information throughout the walk. As we continued, we came upon The Brickyard chimney, which is an iconic Island image.
It was a sight to be seen. There is an upper yard, where management offices, etc., were located, and the lower yard where the factory was. With all the trees and brush cleared, you can see that it was a huge operation. An interesting fact, all the granite you see was brought in by boat from the Boston area. It was not an Island resource.
This is actually the second brickyard. The first one closed some time before this one. The first record of production for this Brickyard at the site was 1846. The last record was 1916.
The iconic chimney was actually not used for firing bricks. It was used for exhaust. However, being in its presence is magical. It gives you an idea of how vast these buildings were here.
Throughout the property, you can still find bricks all over. All of these are cast offs. Bricks that were not fired correctly or had defects. Also, you will find a number of factory parts around, like large gears and rods.
There are still remnants from the water mill that powered the machinery. It’s incredible to be able to get up close to all these pieces of history, truly a gift.
Why did The Brickyard close? They used up all the available clay, and technology changed a lot of things. In its heyday, 800,000 bricks a year were being manufactured there. It was a big production, and being on the water made for easy transportation with boats.
However, with the coming of the railroad and electricity, it was no longer cost effective to get bricks from the Island when they could now easily be made on the mainland and transported much cheaper through railroad.
Though The Brickyard closed, Vita’s grandfather started Chilmark China Clay – clay works there. They were able to use a special kind of clay found Up -Island and refine in for use for fine China.
Vita grew up playing here. It was her backyard. This walk was the first time she had seen the property cleared. It was a very special moment for her, and having her share so much with our group was amazing.
The Brickyard is simply incredible. How lucky we are to have The Trustees as its manager. There was so much we learned on this walk. It was a memorable Island experience, so much more than I expected.
I look forward to seeing what the archeologists discover, what stories The Brickyard has hidden below the soil. What knowledge will be shared with us and generations to follow.
When The Brickyard is open to the public, we will be certain to let you know. Until then, I highly recommend going on at least one of The Trustees’ Winter Walks. You never know who might be on it with you, and what you’ll learn. I honestly feel as though I could write a magazine article with all I learned!