Vineyard Haven Harbor is a village within the town of Tisbury, Massachusetts, on the island of Martha's Vineyard. Vineyard Haven Harbor is about 7 nautical miles (10 kilometers or 6 miles by air) northwest of Edgartown Harbor, also on the island. Vineyard Haven Harbor is 5.6 nautical miles (10 kilometers of 6 miles by air) south of Falmouth Harbor on the mainland.
Even though it is only a part of Tisbury, Vineyard Haven Harbor is the main port of entry to Martha's Vineyard, and the larger town is now commonly called Vineyard Haven. During the summer, the population of Vineyard Haven Harbor increases dramatically. In 2010, the US Census reported a permanent population of just over two thousand in Vineyard Haven Harbor.
The indigenous Wampanoag Nation inhabited the land that would become Vineyard Haven Harbor. The Algonquian-speaking Wampanoag welcomed the Plymouth Pilgrims in the early 17th Century, but things did not end well for the Wampanoag.
In 1616, yellow fever was introduced to all 69 tribes of the Wampanoag Nation, and two-thirds of the people died. As more settlers arrived at Vineyard Haven Harbor from England, they displaced the Wampanoag, giving the people alcohol and "buying" their lands while they were drunk.
Until the Cape Cod Canal opened in 1914, Vineyard Haven Harbor was the first or last harbor barges, tugs, and schooners could use on their trips to/from Boston and New York. When the weather or the tides were not favorable, their ships needed repair, or supplies were running low, many ships anchored in Vineyard Haven Harbor.
Transient commerce was the base for the growth of Vineyard Haven Harbor in its early days. Local businesses mended sails, repaired hulls and rigging, and cared for ailing sailors. From 1865 until 1914, as many as two thousand ships wrecked between Vineyard Sound and the top of Cape Cod. Two cemeteries in Vineyard Haven Harbor contain the remains of shipwreck victims.
Called Holmes Hole until 1871, ship-building companies were also located in Vineyard Haven Harbor. In the mid-1840s, the Holmes Hole Marine Railway (Martha's Vineyard Shipyard today) built as many as a dozen brigs and large schooners in Vineyard Haven Harbor.
During World War II, much of the Vineyard Haven Harbor shoreline was commandeered for an open-air construction site where barges, high-speed rearmament boats, and personnel vessels were built to serve the war effort.