There is a little known and magical waterfront neighborhood on the north shore of Martha's Vineyard called Chappaquonsett. Today there are only 10 homes in this very special area surrounded by protected woodland and beautiful water. It lies directly across Vineyard Sound from Woods Hole and the Elizabeth Islands. Chappaquonsett is an Indian name meaning "where the nets dry". Not surprising since its most eastern point is now the entrance to Lake Tashmoo which was once the site of a famous and productive herring run before fresh water Tashmoo was connected to Vineyard Sound.
There is the sandy, dune protected pristine beach running east/west for more than a half mile. In the the early 1950's there were only 3 houses on it. To the East was Chip Chop, the remarkable home of the most famous stage actress of her time, Katherine Cornell. It was designed by Eric Gugler in 1937 and completed in 1945. At the western end of the beach the older and even larger beautiful home of Helen Pratt Philbin, daughter of Charles Pratt, partner of John D. Rockefeller in Standard Oil and founder of Pratt Institute.
Between these enormous homes, each with dozens of acres of property, owned by two of the most wealthy and powerful women of their time, stood a small cottage ..built in 1950 in the typical Vineyard style of grayed cedarshake and grey trim as a "fishing camp." A small place for men to gather and fish and drink beer. It had been built by a man named Fullerton after he purchased the waterfront land for $2,500 and took out a $6,000 mortgage to build the cottage. Some might say a lot of leverage in 1950.
Three years later the great recession of 1953 struck, very deep and very fast and Fullerton, who also had speculated on other Vineyard property found himself in financial trouble. Given his wealthy and powerful neighbors, he decided to offer the house and property to Katherine Cornell and Helen Pratt Philbin at a big price. Its told they demurred and smiled but politely declined asking why would they possibly want to do that? Summer passed into Fall and all left the island on Labor Day for the Winter. When Cornell and Philbin returned around Memorial Day they found a surprise .. a big surprise. The quaint little cottage had been freshly painted, not grayed shingles with gray trim, but bright blue, turquoise blue, including its roof. Its recalled that Mrs. Philbin said "it looked like a hot dog stand!"
The point had been made and the women got together and decided to buy the property at any price before things got worse and on June 14th, 1954, bought the house and 100' of Vineyard Sound frontage for $20,000, an extremely good price at that time. Helen Philbin and Katherine Cornell actually got a mortgage to do this, so they must have been determined to make this "investment" pay for itself. And they did. In 1957 a well known British character actress and friend of Katherine Cornell, Brenda Forbes and her lawyer husband Merrill Shepard purchased three separate parcels: Helen Philbin sold them 50 feet of her land for $ 1000, Helen and Katherine Cornell sold them the cottage and 100’ beachfront parcel for $24,000 and Gertrude Macy (Cornell's Manger) sold 150 feet of adjacent beachfront land for $ 1,500. The ladies didn’t lose any money. And they got more simpatico neighbors. And the new owners got a much nicer and much larger parcel of waterfront land. Brenda and her husband Merrill Shepard lived in Chicago where he was a partner in a prestigious law firm. That Spring, they returned to the Vineyard and began getting the house ready for Summer. At the dry goods store in Vineyard Haven, they bought fresh towels and sheets and blankets and more and asked they be delivered. When they gave directions to the house the store clerk replied, "Oh, you mean to the Swindle"!
The name stuck ... so much so that when it came time for the Shepard's to fill out the information for inclusion in the 1955 Social Register, Merrill explained it would be impossible for a lawyer to have the name of their summer residence be "The Swindle". Brenda disagreed in her perfectly British way. We don't know exactly how that was resolved, but we do know for Christmas that year Merrill gave her a little box of beautiful blue Stationary with "The Swindle" engraved on top.
The Swindle has been lovingly expanded and renovated over the years. It's an impeccable home with all modern amenties in a classic cottage setting. Exclusively offered $5,750,000.