Scenic USA - Massachusetts

Gay Head

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Gay Head - Aquinnah, Massachusetts

Photos by Leo Cloutier
Leo's Vineyard Collection

     Martha's Vineyard, one of the most famous islands of New England, can only be reached by air or sea. Its limited access and unique name only heightens the mystic of this resort area. Just off the coast of Cape Cod, The Vineyard and adjacent Chappaquiddick Island are coupled together as a top notch tourist destination and summer vacationing area. Island population ebbs and flows with the seasons, varying from 15,000 to 100,000 residents.
     Martha's Vineyard gained its status as a summer haven Gay Head Lighthouse - Aquinnah, Massachusetts during the whaling era. Well-to-do maritime merchants and sea captains built grand estates on the island. Because these seafaring residents were well aware of the shipwrecks near the western tip of the island, Aquinnah and Gay Head received special attention. Capping off the island's western tip, Gay Head was named for the colorful clay cliffs. Marked by a steep drop to the Vineyard Sound below, what's lurking beneath the Atlantic waters are a collection unseen rocky shoals. The original wooden light tower was replaced in 1844 with a permanent lighthouse. The Gay Head Lighthouse, a 175 year old red brick tower, still warns mariners of this treacherous point. Sunset tours take advantage of this dramatic location, one of the most picturesque lighthouse settings on the Eastern Coast.
     Using steel tracks and heavy moving equipment, crews in 2015 relocated the lighthouse from its precarious position on the edge of the cliff. Taking three nerve racking days for the move, the 130 foot journey reset the lighthouse on a base of solid concrete blocks. Once backfill was completed and landscaping in place, the lighthouse was reopened for tours. Now removed from the list of the Most Endangered Historic Places, the lighthouse should be safe for another 150 years.

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