History of the Inn
The Thorncroft estate was built over a 10 year period from 1908 until 1918 by John Herbert Ware I, a Chicago grain merchant. The Inn’s Main House was built as the guest house on the estate and it housed friends, relatives and dignitaries visiting Thorncroft. Known affectionately in the Ware family as the “little house,” the Main Building is a classic craftsman bungalow, with its dominant roof line and neocolonial details. The 6,000 sq. ft. structure was built with many bedrooms and servant’s quarters and the floorplan is original. It was built to house summer guests, so it was ideally suited to its present use as a country inn.
John Herbert Ware II, the son of the original builder of the estate, passed away in 1964, and the estate was sold in two portions, divided by Main Street. The original family home, across the street, was sold to the Colgate family of Colgate-Palmolive and it has had several owners, including an Olympic ocean racer, an Austrian countess and a U.S. Senator.
The “little house” became a rest home until 1971, when it was purchased by Gordon and Eleanor Bates, who converted it to a lodging establishment, called the Haven Guest House. The conversion pre-existed the advent of zoning in 1972, thus allowing the inn to operate as a business in this fine residential area. Over the years several parcels of land, belonging to the original estate, were subdivided on both sides of Main Street and subsequently sold.
The Buders first came to Martha’s Vineyard as tourists in 1978 and first acquired rental property in Oak Bluffs in 1979. They purchased an additional property in 1980; both properties were apartment buildings, for weekly summer rentals. They found themselves spending all their free time on the Island and it became clear that their future was entwined with Martha’s Vineyard. In March of 1981, the Bates decided to sell “Haven Guest House,” which had been subdivided to include 1½ acres of land. Mr. Bates put an ad in the Vineyard Gazette, but the ad didn’t refer to any business use. The Buders, living in Connecticut at the time, saw the ad and called, almost on a whim. Only then did Mr. Bates refer to the use of the property as an Inn and that piqued the Buders’ interest. They first saw the property on a cold, blustery winter Sunday and it was love at first sight. The papers were signed on Friday the 13th of March, 1981. Over the course of time, it became obvious that innkeeping would be the Buders’ first love and the Oak Bluffs properties were sold.
The renovations to the former “Haven Guest House” were so extensive that it was, in reality, a completely new style of lodging establishment. The Buders were in search of a new name, when, out of the blue, John Herbert Ware III, the grandson of the original builder, retired from a career in banking and settled on the Island, not far from the Inn. One day, while visiting the Inn, in a wave of nostalgia he told us that “Gramps used to call the place Thorncroft.” Bingo! Permission was sought and received from the family to use the name for the Inn and it was trademarked.
The Buder’s two sons, Alex, born in 1984, and Hans, born in 1986, have both completed college and graduate school. They live and work back in “America”. The Buders are licensed real estate brokes and have been active in other personal real estate ventures over the years. They have bought and sold other inns, including Greenwood House on Greenwood Avenue, which they ran from 1987 until 1994, in addition to Thorncroft.