AQUINNAH, Mass. (AP) — A Martha's Vineyard lighthouse that's in danger of tumbling off the cliffs it was built on in the 1800s was named one of the country's most endangered historic places.
The Gay Head Lighthouse in Aquinnah has stood on the Gay Head Cliffs since 1856 and a lighthouse has been in that spot since 1799.
But the erosion is eating the clay cliffs away at a rate of at least 2 to 3 feet per year — worse if there are severe storms. The lighthouse is now about 50 feet from the edge, and even closer to the point where it can't be saved, said Alicia Leuba of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Workers need at least 40 feet of cliff in order to safely stage a move, said Leuba, whose group placed the lighthouse on its 2013 Most Endangered Historic Places list Wednesday.
A town committee is leading efforts to raise $3 million to move the lighthouse to a spot nearby, where it hopes it will stand for at least another century, said resident Beverly Wright, head of the committee running the "Keep on Shining" campaign.
The lighthouse has important historic links to her Wampanoag tribe as the only lighthouse with a long history of Indian light keepers, and has been a fixture in her life, Wright said. Its sweeping light was part of her childhood and helped lull her grandson to sleep when he was little, she said.
"Not to have that light sweeping in my bedroom at night is a loss," Wright said.
Leuba said the brick structure has a rich nautical and cultural heritage, and it would be a huge loss to the community and the Wampanoags if it was allowed to fall into the sea.
"The danger is imminent," she said. "We feel that now is the time to act to save the lighthouse."