Lighthouse FAQ

Help us help the Gay Head Lighthouse!  Please visit our website at and click the Donate button. Thank you for your support!

Why is the Gay Head Lighthouse being moved ?

The Lighthouse now stands approximately 46 feet from the edge of the Cliffs and within two years, at current erosion rates, it will be too close to the edge to move safely. Erosion has been observed for years so the Martha’s Vineyard Museum commissioned an erosion study in 2010. Based on that study, it was determined that something would need to be done within 10 years. It was only after consultation with engineers that it was discovered they would need at least 30, preferably 40′ in diameter around the light to move it safely, hence the URGENCY.

Who owns the Gay Head Lighthouse?

At present, the U.S. Coast Guard owns the lighthouse but it was listed as surplus property on August 1, 2013 and the town of Aquinnah is applying for ownership. It is hoped that it will be awarded to the Town of Aquinnah, just as the Edgartown Light was recently awarded to that town. The Coast Guard can no longer afford its many lighthouses.

Will The Gay Head Lighthouse still be a functioning navigational device?

Yes! It remains a vital aide to mariners and we hope to keep the white, red sweep going for many years to come.

When was it built?

The current brick structure was built in 1854, replacing the original wooden structure built in 1799. The beacon was installed and lit for the first time in 1856.

How much does it weigh?

Approximately 400 tons!

Where will it be moved?

Three possible sites have been identified and initial geological analysis is underway. The most suitable site will be selected, based upon soils, visibility, erosion projections, and comparative site acquisition and moving costs.

How much will it cost to move the Light?

Costs are dependent upon the site chosen but will approximate $3,000,000. which includes all aspects of the project including engineering, geotechnical testing, property acquisition, pre-move engineering and reinforcement, site prep, moving of the structure, restoration of the original site and move path, landscaping, creation of a new access pathway, and final renovation of the structure.

Where will the money come from?

Fundraising is well underway and the people of Aquinnah have responded very generously. People in other Towns are starting to follow suit. It is planned to raise 2/3s of the budget through private donations, with the remaining 1/3 raised from events and public and private grants.

Can the lighthouse be moved?

Can the lighthouse be moved?

When will it be moved and how long will it take?

If all goes according to initial plans, the Lighthouse will be moved in the fall of 2014. Depending on the site chosen (selection of which will be based on geotechnical research and other qualitative and quantitative considerations), it should take between 7-14 days for the move itself. Restoration and landscaping will take longer.

Why is the Town of Aquinnah involved in saving the Lighthouse?

The Gay Head Light is undoubtedly the most recognized structure in Aquinnah. Though it has long served as a beacon to mariners, its light is a deep and satisfying comfort to residents and visitors alike, who treasure it for what it is and what it represents. It’s up to all of us to help to preserve it.

Help us help the Gay Head Lighthouse!  Please visit our website at and click the Donate button. Thank you for your support!