Cottage History

View of the Lagoon Heights neighborhood in the early 1900's, possibly from Winne Avenue, looking south toward Springfield Avenue. From left are the Brown, Buck and Watkins cottages. In the background is the Allen cottage on Worcester Avenue. (All Lagoon Heights images provided by Beryl Obermann Stephens.)


Members of the Cox family:

Originally published in the Dukes County Intelligencer, vol. 55, no. 1, pp. 32-58. Copyright 2013 by the Martha’s Vineyard Museum; further distribution without the express written permission of the Museum is prohibited. To purchase printed copies, or request permission to reprint, please contact the Museum at

The Honorable Alfred E. Cox and wife?

Phillip W. L. Cox, Sr., d.1976?  and wife Ruth Dillaway Cox, d. 1969?

Phillip W. L. Cox, Jr., d. 1991?

Edward Cox, d. 1997?

Nancy R. Cox Hollister, d. 2001

Phillip W. L. Cox, Jr.’s grandchildren:

Peter Cox, Emma Cox Owen, Fred Cox

Emma Cox Owen’s children:

Jayson Owen, Laura Owen Rich, Sarah Owen, Sunday Jacobs Owen


The Red Roof Cottage was built in 1919 from a Sears and Roebuck kit called an Aladdin Home.  Originally built out on sheep pasture in the “wilds” of Oak Bluffs, the cottage enjoyed an expansive view of the Lagoon Pond.  It had a hand pump in the kitchen, an ice box, an outdoor bathroom and, yes, a red roof.  Over the years it has been added onto (by a variety of uncles and locals with rudimentary carpentry skills), electrified and plumbed.  A nice year-round neighborhood has grown up around it, but the lot is large with tremendous privacy offered by Winne Park (off the deck) and Beacon Park (fronting Fitchburg Avenue).

In the late 1800’s my great, great grandfather Alfred E. Cox brought his family from Malden, Massachusetts, to spend summers in their seaside home on the corner of Canonicus and Sea View avenues in Oak Bluffs.  Weary of the Victorian lifestyle there, his son Philip rented this cottage the summer it was built and bought it the next year.  An educator by profession, he brought his family down just after Memorial Day every year and closed it up for their departure just before Labor Day.  The rustic nature of the lifestyle here appealed to them all:  clamming in the lagoon, getting milk and vegetables from Tia Anna’s farm nearby, bird-watching, berry picking, canoeing and sailing.

The cellar was hand-dug when the cottage was plumbed (sometime in the 30’s) and the interior kitchen was moved to the expanded back porch shortly after that.  A platform was added, accessed by a raise-able ladder, for access out onto the kitchen rooftop for nude sunbathing and stargazing.  It is said you could see the village of Edgartown from up there in those days before reforestation after the Island’s long history as pastureland.

My great-grandmother Ruth and great-aunt Nan were both artists.  The cottage has become a gallery for their paintings, sculpture, pottery and weavings.  Nan acquired the floor loom here on the Island in the 1940’s when she apprenticed with a master weaver from Hungary who immigrated to Martha’s Vineyard after World War II.  It has recently returned to the cottage after residing with Nan throughout her life in New York City, Pennsylvania, Florida and California.  Many yards of artisan textiles and numerous rugs and tapestries were created on it.  The “Flowers-in-Vase” painting was painted by a sister of the maverick political family from Texas.  The Gay Head Cliffs painting is by James Gilbert of Martha’s Vineyard.

Much of the cottage furniture was cast-offs from mainland homes of various family members.  The white tables on the sun porch are from the Sea View summer home.  The original ice box is in the cellar.

The small cabin below was built as a garage for the family’s Model T Ford.  In the 1940’s it was converted into an art studio, then later a guest cottage when the studio was moved to the cellar–a cool spot on hot summer days.