Away from the high-season crowds, discover the water-powered brickworks that helped build downtown Boston.
While the Martha’s Vineyard of today might seem an unlikely location for down-and-dirty industry, the north shore’s rocky landscape was a perfect fit for 19th-century brick-making. In the 1860s, under the ownership of Boston banker Nathaniel Harris, the business hit its stride. Workers mined clay from the soil, used island-harvested trees and the waters of Roaring Brook to power the operation, and shipped as many as 800,000 bricks a year aboard schooners docked in Vineyard Sound. Before railroads rendered the brickworks obsolete, construction projects from Boston to Newport to New York used bricks made in Chilmark.
Today, visitors can explore the historic remnants of the brickworks, including its iconic 45-foot chimney and 10-foot-high cut-stone walls. But be advised: the trail follows uneven terrain on the way down, followed by a strenuous uphill hike on the way back.
A one-third-mile path through lush woodlands connects The Brickyard with the trails of Menemsha Hills. Wear proper hiking footwear, bring water, and allow a minimum of three hours for the trip down and back to the parking area. Please only embark if you’re physically fit for the round-trip journey.
FREE to all.
Chilmark, MA 02535
From State Rd. in West Tisbury, turn right onto North Rd. west toward Chilmark and follow for 4.7 mi. Entrance and parking (20 cars) are just past Tabor House Rd. on right.
Free trail map distributed from bulletin board in the parking area. Please understand that supplies periodically run out.
We recommend that you take a photo of the map on your phone so you can refer to it during your visit, or download a trail map before you head out.
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On the craggy northwestern coast of Martha’s Vineyard, a roughly 45-foot chimney rises above the shoreline like an oversized maroon candle on a rubbly birthday cake. For mariners, that chimney in the sleepy town of Chilmark has long been a marker for plotting courses across Vineyard Sound. For decades, it was the most visible aspect of 18 overgrown, seldom-visited acres. Back in the 19th century, however, the chimney was a crucial feature of The Brickyard, one of the earliest commercial brick-making operations and a bona fide industry on Martha’s Vineyard. Workers drew upon the site’s native soil, timbers, and water power to manufacture the bricks that helped build, among other things, downtown Boston.
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