Vineyard Gazette
The tower on which the light stands, which seemed at a distance to be white, is in reality red, being made of pressed brick, and capped with freestone; it is forty feet high, and surmounted by an
Gay Head Light


The federal government formally declared the Gay Head Light surplus property Thursday, clearing the way for the town of Aquinnah to take ownership of the lighthouse which is now critically endangered due to erosion.

The General Services Administration posted the notice Thursday, making the lighthouse surplus property. Aquinnah voters have already agreed that the town will apply to take ownership.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation announced in a ceremony at the Gay Head Cliffs Wednesday morning that it had named the Gay Head Light to its 2013 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

Members of a town committee charged with organizing the move of the Gay Head Light learned this week that they are not alone in their plight during a presentation about a project to move the Sankaty Head Light on Nantucket six years ago.


gay head lighthouse

As erosion inches the Gay Head Lighthouse closer to the edge, the Martha’s Vineyard Museum is moving ahead with a study to assess the urgency of relocating the 156-year-old structure.

The study will take place over the course of three years and provide a “more realistic” prediction of what the long-term needs are for the area, museum director David Nathans said yesterday.


Lighthouses define the character of Martha’s Vineyard. They guide people from land and sea to the same shorelines, sheltering them under beacons of home.
Today, the Island’s lighthouses are deteriorating. Bricks are crumbling in the breeze, and iron is flaking away in the salt air. Before long, these landmarks could be reduced to brittle, rotting shells.


When the good ship Uncle Toby brought the new Fresnel lens to New York and the lens was subsequently deposited at the Edgartown wharf, almost a hundred years ago, little did the drivers, or anyone else for that matter, dream that the forty yoke oxen employed to transport the lens across the Island to Gay Head would not be the last agents to ever move the sixty frames of glass prisms and the multitudinous collection of machinery necessary to operate the light. This week all of these things were back in Edgartown.