Congratulations, Edgartown! It’s a lighthouse.
The town is the new owner of the old lighthouse, which has been perched a quarter mile out on the outer Edgartown harbor since 1939.
The U.S. General Services Administration announced the transfer in ownership last Thursday, about a year and a half after the lighthouse was declared no longer mission critical to the Coast Guard.
As part of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, decommissioned lighthouses are offered at no cost to state or local governments, nonprofit organizations, and historic preservation groups.
“Lighthouses are an important part of our national and regional heritage,” Robert Zarnetske, GSA regional administrator for New England, said in a press release. “Capable and passionate stewards like the Town of Edgartown help us ensure that these maritime treasures are preserved by assuming local control for their maintenance.”
Town administrator Pamela Dolby told the Edgartown selectmen Monday that the town now has the deed to the lighthouse.
The Martha’s Vineyard Museum will continue as stewards of the lighthouse, Mrs. Dolby said. “They’ve taken great care of the lighthouse and we don’t want to interrupt that.” Martha’s Vineyard Museum director David Nathans said it will be business as usual at the lighthouse “with a local landlord.”
“We’re looking forward to it,” he said.
The town already owns the land surrounding the lighthouse. Mr. Nathans said the town now owns “the hole that was in the doughnut.”
The process of acquiring the lighthouse was a long one. After announcement that the lighthouse was surplus property in May 2012, the town signed off in January 2013 on an application to take stewardship of the beacon. The official transfer came this week.
The cost of the lighthouse was about $1, town administrator Mrs. Dolby said last year.
Last January, Mrs. Dolby said there were other parties interested in the lighthouse; another town expressed interest in taking the lighthouse and relocating it, and a group in Arkansas had wanted to take the lighthouse apart and bring it down to that state. Mrs. Dolby said that she believed the other parties backed out when Edgartown expressed their own desire to keep the lighthouse.
At town meeting last April, voters supported acquiring the lighthouse.
The original Edgartown lighthouse was built in 1828 and badly damaged in a 1938 hurricane. and was replaced with the Essex Light from Ipswich. The cast-iron lighthouse, built in 1875, was dismantled and shipped by barge to Edgartown. It has a granite foundation and stands approximately 45 feet tall.
The stones around the lighthouse are engraved with names as part of the Children’s Memorial.
While the fate of the Edgartown Lighthouse is secured, Aquinnah is in the process of acquiring the Gay Head Light, which was declared surplus property over the summer. That issue is more fraught; the cliff below the lighthouse is eroding and the lighthouse must soon be relocated.