The oldest fishing shack in Menemsha is now under the stewardship of the town of Aquinnah, at least for the short term.
The Aquinnah selectmen voted 2-1 Tuesday night to take possession of what is known as the Alfred Vanderhoop shack.
The 240-square-foot shack was built around 1865 and sits at the head of the harbor on Boathouse Road. It is believed to be the only remaining structure to have survived the hurricane of 1938, which wiped out most of Menemsha. The shack and nearby dock are leased out to commercial fishermen under the Menemsha Creek leases granted by Chilmark and Aquinnah.
The taking marks the end of a year of intense and at times emotional discussion over property rights and lease arrangements for the old shack. The shack was formerly owned by the late Mr. Vanderhoop’s partner Camille Rose. Ms. Rose later sold the building to Wendy Swolinsky, who has been using the shack for her charter boat business for several years. Ms. Swolinsky holds a lease with the town on the abutting lot. A separate dispute is pending in Dukes County probate court between the Vanderhoop family and Ms. Rose over the sale of the shack.
Meanwhile, the land beneath the shack and dock area are owned by the town, and over the summer the selectmen assigned a four-year lease for the Vanderhoop shack lot to Vernon Welch. Mr. Welch was one of two applicants on a lengthy waiting list who were awarded leases. This was the first time in the 10-year history of the leasing that the lots became available.
It all added up to much confusion over who had the rights to what. Both Ms. Swolinsky and Mr. Welch claimed ownership of the shack and the dock space.