The Edgartown lighthouse could have ended up in Arkansas. But the 1875 lighthouse will likely stay at its perch a quarter-mile out in Edgartown harbor, as the Edgartown selectmen signed off Monday on the town’s application to take stewardship of the icon.
In May, the town learned that the U.S. General Services Administration, the current owners of the lighthouse, would look for a new owner for the lighthouse, which was deemed no longer critical to the U.S. Coast Guard.
At the time, the selectmen concurred that the town should apply for stewardship. Through the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, decommissioned lighthouses are offered at little or no cost to eligible state and local governments, nonprofit organizations and historic preservation groups. If no eligible group comes forward, the lighthouse is auctioned off.
On Monday, the town’s bid to own the lighthouse took a large step forward as selectmen signed thick application binders prepared by town administrator Pamela Dolby.
The town intends to continue with the current arrangement, which has the Martha’s Vineyard Museum serving as keepers of the lighthouse, though the town would have ownership. The museum also oversees care of the Gay Head light, which is also up for bid, and the East Chop light.
While not much will change, “now the town is secure in knowing it’s always going to belong to us,” Mrs. Dolby said.
The applications were scheduled to be sent on Tuesday, ahead of the Jan. 10 deadline. The government has 60 days to respond, Mrs. Dolby said, and town meeting will have to vote to approve the final application.
She said she thought the cost of the lighthouse would be about $1.
Mrs. Dolby said another town had expressed interest in taking the lighthouse and relocating it, and a group in Arkansas had wanted to take the lighthouse apart and bring it down to that state.
She said that she believes the other parties backed out when Edgartown expressed their own desire to keep the lighthouse.
If the lighthouse had been moved, it wouldn’t have been the first time. The original Edgartown lighthouse, built in 1828, was destroyed in a 1938 hurricane. It was replaced by the Essex Light from Ipswich, a cast-iron lighthouse that was dismantled and shipped by barge to its current home in Edgartown.