Gay Head Lighthouse listed to 2013 11 Most Engangered Places

photo by: Martha's Vineyard Museum

11 Most Endangered Historic Places

Gay Head Lighthouse

  • Location: Aquinnah, MA

Gay Head Lighthouse was the first lighthouse built on Martha’s Vineyard and one of the first in the U.S. to receive a first order Fresnel lens in 1856. Many men in the Aquinnah community, including members of the Wampanoag tribe, worked at the lighthouse. Standing atop the National Natural Landmark Gay Head Cliffs, the lighthouse serves as a beacon to Wampanoag tribal heritage and is the only lighthouse with a history of Native American Lighthouse keepers.

“Gay Head Lighthouse represents an important part of Massachusetts coastal communities’ identity and the cultural and nautical history of the United States.”

Stephanie Meeks

“Gay Head Lighthouse represents an important part of Massachusetts coastal communities’ identity and the cultural and nautical history of the United States,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “With the impact of climate change and the passage of time threatening the site, raising public awareness and funds to relocate and restore the lighthouse is more critical than ever before.”

The lighthouse is in immediate danger of toppling over the edge of the Gay Head Cliffs, a consequence of a century of erosion and the direct impact of climate change. The lighthouse is 50’-60’ from the edge of the cliffs and about 10 feet away from losing its future. The rate of erosion is about 2 feet per year, and that rate can be accelerated by significant storms. It is estimated that in two years, or less, there will not be enough land left to accommodate the machinery and equipment needed to move the tower.

The Gay Head Lighthouse was included on the Trust's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list for 2013.

Announcing the 2018 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

See the List