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No reports of the Obamas on the Vineyard yet, but one sign points to their summer arrival

The Obamas new house at 79 Turkeyland Cove Road on Martha's Vineyard was formerly owned by Wyc Grousbeck.
The Obamas new house at 79 Turkeyland Cove Road on Martha's Vineyard was formerly owned by Wyc Grousbeck.LandVest

Barack and Michelle Obama bought a house on Martha’s Vineyard, but islanders should not expect to see the former president and first lady strolling down Main Street in Edgartown.

Indeed, there have been few if any public sightings of the Obamas on the island since last fall, when the couple paid $11.75 million for a seven-bedroom, eight-bathroom spread overlooking Edgartown Great Pond. The 6,892-square-foot home, located on 29.3 acres between Slough Cove and Turkeyland Cove, was previously owned by Boston Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck and his ex-wife, Corinne Basler Grousbeck.

They may not be on the Vineyard now, but it’s clear the Obamas intend to be there soon. Members of the Farm Neck Golf Club say Obama has joined the semi-private club in Oak Bluffs, where he had a regular tee time when vacationing during his presidency. Described as “idyllic” by Golf Digest — one of the club rules is “any ball moved or stolen by seagulls should be moved back or played at the original lie” — the 18-hole seaside course features lush, meandering fairways, majestic ocean vistas, salt marshes, and, on the 18th hole, a view of the New York Yankees flag that director Spike Lee flies atop his nearby summer house, perhaps to provoke Red Sox fans.


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President Barack Obama (right) rides in a golf cart with former Boston Celtic Ray Allen while golfing at Farm Neck Golf Club in 2015.
President Barack Obama (right) rides in a golf cart with former Boston Celtic Ray Allen while golfing at Farm Neck Golf Club in 2015. Steven Senne

But when Obama isn’t on the links with friends — his playing partners at Farm Neck have included NBA stars Steph Curry, Ray Allen, and Alonzo Mourning, and comedian Larry David — islanders are unlikely to find the famous new homeowner opining on the porch at the Chilmark General Store or browsing the organic arugula at the Stop & Shop in Vineyard Haven.

Obama vacationed on the island for seven of the eight summers of his presidency, and he very much valued his privacy. He and Michelle dined out occasionally, but he was not prone to impromptu moseying like Bill Clinton, who also sojourned on Martha’s Vineyard during his administration. Even President Ulysses S. Grant, who visited the island for three days in 1874, watched a fireworks display surrounded by thousands of people.

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It’s no exaggeration to say Obama is beloved on the island, a famously liberal enclave whose residents have made their feelings about President Trump clear. Two summers ago, Alan Dershowitz, the retired Harvard Law professor and longtime island resident, lamented that some of his Vineyard friends were “shunning” him for opposing the appointment of a special counsel to investigate President Trump’s ties to Russia.

Such partisanship makes a Trump family vacation on the island hard to imagine, though the president’s daughter, Ivanka, does have connections there. One is her friend Abigail Klem, who was chief brand officer and, later, president of the Ivanka Trump brand before the company was shuttered in 2018. Klem, a democrat, and her boyfriend, Warren Spector, former copresident at Bear Stearns, have a place in Chilmark.

But the politics of the place may not matter to the president’s daughter and her husband, Jared Kushner, when choosing where to relax. In the summer of 2017, the couple vacationed at Twin Farms, a resort and spa in Barnard, Vt., which is hardly a bastion of conservatism.

Martha’s Vineyard, totaling just 96 square miles, does get crowded in the summer, but there are still plenty of mid-century modern manses and gray-shingled behemoths tucked away at the end of long, private driveways available for rent. They’re not cheap, though. Secluded waterfront properties go for $60,000 or more per week.

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Before the Obamas bought a place, they rented three different properties, including Blue Heron Farm, a deluxe 28-acre estate that was later purchased by the celebrated English architect Norman Foster (That’s Sir Norman Robert Foster, Baron Foster of Thames Bank, to you). But now, the Obamas are homeowners, and their home sounds pretty nice, with a fireplace in the master suite, two guest wings, a two-car garage, a boathouse, and a pool.

And that’s not all. The Martha’s Vineyard Times has reported that the Obamas are planning some modest renovations, including an enlargement of patios, landscaping, and the construction of a firepit, presumably for late-night s’mores.


Mark Shanahan can be reached at mark.shanahan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MarkAShanahan