- An endangered lighthouse started a move to safety Thursday
- The Gay Head Lighthouse on Martha's Vineyard was threatened by years of erosion
"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 National Trust for Historic Preservation's website
said in its listing of the 1854 lighthouse on its 2013 list of the Most Endangered Historic Places.
Instead, the lighthouse in Aquinnah, Massachusetts, started a journey Thursday to a new spot 135 feet southeast of its current location, according to town administrator Adam Wilson. The move should be completed no later than Sunday, he said.
Before it started moving, the lighthouse was just 46 feet from the edge of Gay Head Cliffs.
The move is expected to cost $2 million, Wilson said, with another million dollars dedicated to restoring the structure. Individuals, private and public foundations, fundraisers and Community Preservation Act funding approved by Martha's Vineyard residents will cover the expenses.
The lighthouse's relocation means a lot to Martha's Vineyard, Wilson said. "The Gay Head Lighthouse is really one of the iconic landmarks that identifies this island."
The lighthouse is operated by the U.S. Coast Guard and will still function as a beacon to mariners after its move, according to a Gay Head Lighthouse website operated by a committee organized to save the historic structure.
In 1856, Gay Head was one of the first lighthouses in the United States to receive a Fresnel lens, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The thinner lenses made light from lighthouses visible over greater distances.
And it is the only lighthouse with a history of Native American lighthouse keepers, according to the trust. Members of the Wampanoag tribe worked at the lighthouse alongside other men in the Aquinnah community.
Today's brick lighthouse, built in 1854, replaced the original wooden structure built in 1799.