Gay Head Light reaches its destination

Cheers and champagne as the historic lighthouse is put in place.

Hats are in the air. –Photos by Patrick Phillips

And on Saturday, the Gay Head Light rested, reaching its final stop on a 129-foot move back from the site it had occupied since 1844.

The journey from the crumbling edge of the cliffs at Gay Head began on Thursday when International Chimney Corp. began to move the historic beacon, while a crowd including Island residents, visitors, and reporters gathered to watch.

The building, which weighs in at 400 tons, was slid, via metal I-beams, across a path chosen for both its elevation and for the stability of the clay. One critical element in selecting the new site is the lack of groundwater, which is responsible for erosion. The project managers said they hope the new location will be stable for another 150 years.

Two days after it began, the trip was over, and once again, a crowd gathered to celebrate as project leader Lenny Butler popped the cork on a bottle of Champagne, and smashed it against the lighthouse, to the cheers of the crowd.

Though the lighthouse is being moved back away from the cliffs, the light will remain at the same elevation, as mandated by the Coast Guard.

In an interview with the Times on Thursday, Brian Vanderhoop, Aquinnah harbormaster and shellfish constable, said, “It had to be done.”  Mr. Vanderhoop said he was both happy and sad about the move. “I grew up with it right where it is, you know? The light always comes through my window, ever since I was a little boy.”

For a behind-the-scenes video interview, and more details on the engineering required to move a 400-ton lighthouse, click here.

View the webcam here.