Island Students Pen Art and Poems for Gay Head Lighthouse

March 13th saw the launch of “I Will Save You,” poems and drawings  by students from all over Martha’s Vineyard.

All of the artwork and poems in the book were created by students from different schools around the island. The book was edited by Fan Ogilvie, educator and poet, and Richard Skidmore, Gay Head Lighthouse Keeper and poet. The book launched March 13, 2015 at Pathways in Chilmark with a poetry reading by the poets featured in the book.

Books will be available for purchase at island bookstores for $20 and proceeds benefit the Save the Gay Head Lighthouse project.  Special thanks to Pathways Projects Institutes, Marianne Goldberg, James Weiss, Susan Stevens, Bob Moore, Amy Reece, Christine Ferrone, Todd Derry, and all the students who shared their art to help save the Light!


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Island Students Lend a Creative Hand to Gay Head Light Effort

Ella Keene holds up her copy of I Will Save You!, a book devoted to the Gay Head Light and created by Island students.

Most authors have to wait decades for their first book launch. But for students at the Chilmark School, the public charter school, and the regional high school, that milestone took place Friday afternoon.

I Will Save You!, a 65-page volume devoted to the Gay Head Light, features drawings, poems, and short stories by 60 students. It arrives in Island bookstores on Monday, and proceeds from sales of the $20 book will go towards the lighthouse effort.

Fan Ogilvie reveals first copies of I Will Save You! — Ivy Ashe

Last year, lighthouse keeper Richard Skidmore and poet Fan Ogilvie visited classrooms at the three schools, explaining the history of the red-brick lighthouse at the tip of the Island from its beginnings in 1799 to its current precarious state. The lighthouse must be moved from its current spot on the Gay Head Cliffs to a site where it is not vulnerable to the forces of erosion, which is taking its toll on the cliffs. Mr. Skidmore said that groundbreaking for the new site is expected to take place in about two weeks.

Continue reading…..

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Town Announces Transfer of Ownership of the Gay Head Light

Gay Head Light

The town of Aquinnah announces that it is now the owner of the historic Gay Head Lighthouse. Almost one year to the day from when the Town submitted it’s application for ownership to the National Park Service, it has received word that all parties have signed off on an agreement clearing the way for the transference. On Friday 2/20/15, the Town received a fully executed deed to the structure and property from the General Services Administration.

After recommendations for this transfer from the Director of the NPS and the Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, a Memorandum of Agreement between the Town .the GSA, the NPS, the Mass. Historic Commission, the USCG, the ACHP (Advisor Council on Historic Preservation) and the Wampanoag Tribe was constructed and approved by all parties. This is required by the terms of the NHLPA (National Historic Lighthouse Protection Act) for the transference and continued treatment of historic lighthouses. This agreement covers the terms and conditions of the transfer and the plans for future management, maintenance and care for the structure in perpetuity.

This transaction clears the way for the planned relocation of the Gay Head Light away from the eroding Gay Head Cliffs. The lighthouse is currently a mere 46 ‘ from the crumbling bluff 100’ above the Atlantic Ocean. The pre move activities are scheduled to begin as soon as weather conditions permit this spring. The move to a location 200’ inland from the cliff is scheduled for May.

The town appreciates the efforts of all parties involved in this effort enabling this project to commence. Having completed the complex procedures involved from application to ownership in one year has to be a record time for such transfers. This speaks to the awareness of all the Federal, State and local authorities of the urgency of this move to beat Mother Nature’s ticking clock.

This is a great and historic day for the Town of Aquinnah, the Wampanoag Tribe, the Island of Martha’s Vineyard and especially for the the iconic Gay Head Light.

As it is now assured to keep on shining for generations to come.

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Plans Fall into Place for Gay Head Light Move – Vineyard Gazette

Gay Head Lighthouse

Excavation for Gay Head light move scheduled to begin when the ground thaws. – Photo, Peter Simon

A detailed plan for moving the Gay Head Light has been approved by the Aquinnah conservation commission and planning board, and extensive landscaping plans and other elements of the project are quickly taking shape.

International Chimney Corporation, along with civil engineer George Sourati, has developed plans to relocate the historic lighthouse about 190 feet from eroding cliffs. If all goes well, excavation of the site will begin as soon as the ground thaws, with the move completed by Memorial Day.

“It’s actually a fairly level excavation,” said lighthouse advisory committee member Len Butler, who presented an update to the Aquinnah selectmen on Wednesday. A path will be dug to the new location, which is a few feet lower in elevation, but will be raised to accommodate the difference. An original granite foundation will be re-exposed, adding about a foot to the height of the lighthouse.

– Continue reading 

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Archaeological Survey Complete, Path Cleared to Move Gay Head Light – MV Gazette

The chairman of the lighthouse relocation committee said an archaeological survey around the Gay Head Light showed no signs of a Wampanoag settlement. Mark Lovewell

The relocation of the Gay Head Light is scheduled to proceed this spring after an archaeological survey around the Aquinnah lighthouse found nothing of significant historical interest.

The chairman of town lighthouse relocation committee said this week that the archaeological survey, conducted by Public Archaeology Lab of Pawtucket, R.I., turned up some broken pieces of pottery and other remains but nothing that would delay the relocation.

The survey was required by the Massachusetts Historical Commission in preparation for the relocation of the lighthouse, which stands at the edge of eroding cliffs on land occupied by the Wampanoag Tribe for thousands of years.

The broken pipes and pottery were discovered during an initial investigation in June that also revealed the lighthouse’s granite foundation, which was buried below the surface. The committee intends to re-expose the foundation when the lighthouse is moved. Lighthouse relocation committee chairman Len Butler said the pottery was likely from the mid-1800s.

– Read more here

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Winter Solstice Celebration 2014



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Gay Head Light Inspires Mini-Documentary

The race against time to save the Gay Head Lighthouse is now the focus of a mini-documentary.

“The Light at the Edge of the Cliff” is a short documentary written, narrated and produced by Rebecca Taylor, a former television reporter who now serves as director of the broadcast journalism program at Siena College outside Albany, New York.

“I thought it was an important story to tell, about preserving a part of the past for future generations before it’s too late,”  explains Taylor, who shot the short doc during visits to the island this summer.

Captivated by the island’s profound connection to the Gay Head Lighthouse, Taylor sought to chronicle the historical significance of the landmark.  The documentary features archival photos courtesy of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum.

“The photographs really illustrated what a staple this landmark has been throughout the island’s history,” said Taylor, who expressed sincere gratitude to library assistant Bow Van Riper for his cooperation in obtaining archival materials.

Taylor plans to submit the project to various academic conferences and festivals.  She is also exploring funding opportunities to return to the island this spring to create an extended version of the project featuring additional interviews.

Contact Rebecca Taylor at

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After Debate, Aquinnah Approves Purchase of Land Near Lighthouse – MV Gazette

Marjorie Spitz addresses the floor at Aquinnah special town meeting Thursday.

Marjorie Spitz addresses the floor at Aquinnah special town meeting Thursday.

After a lengthy and emotional debate Thursday, Aquinnah voters narrowly approved the purchase of two properties near the spot where the Gay Head Light is expected to be relocated next spring.

The two properties, known collectively as the Manning-Murray property, consist of about .37 acres and will be purchased for $590,000. About half the cost will be paid for by community preservation act funds and the half will be borrowed in notes and bonds.

The final vote on the article was 29 in favor, 12 opposed and 1 abstention. The article required a 2/3 majority vote, and passed by two votes.

Town clerk Carolyn Feltz counts Australian ballots for vote on Manning-Murray property. — Ivy Ashe

A total of 42 voters attended Aquinnah’s special town meeting Thursday evening at the old town hall. There were seven articles on the warrant.

Discussion focused on purchase of the Manning-Murray property, specifically the importance of the property to the heirs of the original owners and the property’s value for tourism.

June Manning spoke passionately about her sister Jill’s childhood home, which stands on the land. “Our family built that property,” she said. “That was our legacy.” She said the property, which was owned by her stepmother, Helen Manning, had earlier been placed on the market for $2 million.

Ms. Manning said her stepmother had intended for the property to be left to Jill Manning but that she had been coerced in a “fragile state” to sign a will stating otherwise.

Some voters sympathized with Ms. Manning, but others argued that purchasing the two properties would prevent unwanted development in an area that is central for tourism.

“As tourism comes to Martha’s Vineyard, everybody benefits,” said Berta Welch, who owns a shop at Aquinnah Circle.

“It’s a trickle down effect,” she said. “It’s for all of us to benefit, to have and to enjoy.”

Wendy Swolinzky questioned whether .37 acres was worth the price. “We’re not a rich town,” she said. She also worried about the cost of further development at the site. “It’s just the beginning of a money pit,” she said.

Bettina Washington argued that $590,000 was a relative bargain. “That’s a million dollar view, and I think we need to think about that,” she said. She worried that a private development might detract from the site’s appeal to visitors. “We need to start bringing money here,” she said. “We need to put our minds together to make this a place that people want to see.”

Len Butler also worried that a private development could ruin the site. “This is an opportunity to protect that land by making it part of the town. And what better tribute would it be if the town decided to make its use connected with the lighthouse?” He suggested using an existing building as a museum dedicated to the heritage of Aquinnah residents who had connections to the lighthouse.

The vote on the land purchase was done by handwritten Australian ballot.

All other articles passed easily.

Voters unanimously approved an article asking for up to $2.5 million for the restructuring of the Martha’s Vineyard Refuse District transfer station in Edgartown. Based on an assessment, Aquinnah’s contribution is 3 per cent, or up to $75,000 over the life of the bond. The project needs approval from all four refuse district towns; Chilmark approved the project at a special town meeting this fall, while Edgartown and West Tisbury have not voted. The district is aiming to begin the project next fall.

An article allocating $5,000 in community preservation money for restoring a historic stone wall behind town hall and $20,000 for restoration and emergency repairs to the Old Parsonage Building had one abstention, with all other votes in favor. The Old Parsonage is rented for affordable housing.


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Gay Head Light Poetry Books, Other Items at Midnight Farm

nancy aronie, midnight farm

Nancy Aronie at the Legacy of Light poetry reading, Midnight Farm

Island poets and poetry lovers gathered on November 1st at Vineyard Haven’s Midnight Farm to share poetry about the Gay Head Lighthouse.  A collection of lighthouse-themed poetry, “Legacy of Light”, is available in hand-bound or digitally printed versions.  Gay Head Lighthouse tee shirts, mugs, and totes are for sale at Midnight Farm and Aquinnah Town Hall. You can also order the poetry books by clicking here. Any of these items would make a perfect gift for those who love the island and want to help save the Gay Head Lighthouse.

To inquire about any of these items, please use our contact form, below:

Contact Us


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