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Name: Gay Head Light  

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Also known as: Aquinnah Light

Nearest Town or City:
Aquinnah (Gay Head), Massachusetts, United States

Location: Aquinnah (Gay Head) Cliffs, western end of Martha's Vineyard, entrance to Vineyard Sound.

Click to enlarge: Photo   
Photo: Jeremy D'Entremont

Managing Organization:
Martha's Vineyard Historical Society

Telephone: 508-627-4441


Contact Address Information:
Box 827
Massachusetts, 02539, United States

Gay Head Light was leased by the Coast Guard to the Vineyard Environmental Research Institute in 1985; the license was transferred to the Martha's Vineyard Historical Society in 1994. All the buildings at the station except the lighthouse tower were destroyed by the Coast Guard. Because the lighthouse is threatened by erosion, in the January 2013 edition of Lighthouse Digest, the lighthouse was added to the Lighthouse Digest Doomsday List of Endangered Lighthouses. In 2013 the Gay Head Lighthouse Committee was formed to help lead the way to save the lighthouse. In May of 2015, at a cost of $3 million, the Gay Head Lighthouse was moved over 100 feet away from the eroding bluff and to safety. And was removed from the Lighthouse Digest Doomsday List.

Tower Height: 51

Height of Focal Plane: 170

Characteristic and Range: Alternating red and white flash every 15 seconds.

Description of Tower: Conical brick tower (unpainted) with black cast iron lantern.

This light is operational

Earlier Towers?
1799: Octagonal tower.

Date Established: 1799

Date Present Tower Built: 1856

Date Automated: 1960

Optics: c. 1810: 10 lamps and reflectors; 1856: First order Fresnel lens (removed 1952); now DCB-224.

Current Use: Active aid to navigation.

Open To Public? At times.

The lighthouse is open to the public from mid-June to August, Friday through Sunday, from one hour before to 1/2 hour after sunset. A small donation is requested. Call (508) 627-4441 to confirm days and times.

Martha's Vineyard is accessible by car/passenger ferry from Hyannis, Falmouth, Woods Hole and New Bedford. Call the Martha's Vineyard Chamber of Commerce at (508) 693-0085 for ferry information. The Gay Head cliffs and lighthouse are at the western tip of the island. Sightseeing tours of Martha's Vineyard are available from Island Transport, Inc.; call (508) 627-8687. All tours stop at Gay Head. There is a cluster of shops and restaurants near the cliffs, as well as a lookout offering a panoramic view of the cliffs and lighthouse.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places

Keepers: Ebenezer Skiff (1799-1828); Ellis Skiff (1828-1845); Samuel Flanders (1845-1849 and 1853-1861); Henry Robinson (1849-1853); Ichabod Norton Luce (1861-1864); Calvin C. Adams (1864-1869); Horatio N. T. Pease (1869-1890); Calvin C. Adams (Jr.?) (assistant c. 1880); Edward P. Lowe (1891-1892); Crosby L. Crocker (1892-1920); Charles W. Vanderhoop (1920-1933); James E. Dolby (1933-1937); Frank A Grieder (1937-1948); Joseph Hindley (1948-1956)


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