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The Movers.com Blog » Blog Archive » What It Takes to Move a Lighthouse

What It Takes to Move a Lighthouse

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Photo by: Pixabay

Some moving companies offer special moving services for items like pianos, artwork and antique furniture. Each of these types of items requires different equipment and expertise. But how do you go about moving a 400-ton brick lighthouse?

The Gay Head Lighthouse stands at about 52 feet tall, located in the Aquinnah area of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. Though it has been an iconic structure on the island for 158 years, the landmark finds itself in danger due to continual erosion of its surrounding cliffs. According to David Abel of The Boston Globe, “the bluff near the Gay Head Lighthouse has eroded 250 feet, and is now less than 50 feet from the structure.” The shrinking amount of land area around the lighthouse has made this matter all the more pressing.

International Chimney Corporation (ICC) is a New York company that specializes in moving large items of this nature–specifically lighthouses. Since the firm did such a great job moving North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in 1999, the Save the Gay Head Lighthouse committee felt obligated to contact ICC. It’s important to note that the Cape Hatteras job involved moving the tallest lighthouse in the country more than a half-mile in twenty-three days–a lighthouse that weighed ten times more than the Gay Head Lighthouse.

But the question again pops into our heads: How do you move a 400-ton brick lighthouse?

First, it takes a lot of money. Adam Wilson, an Aquinnah administrator, explains how the job involves tax dollars from each of Martha’s Vineyard’s six towns: “This has been an island-wide effort.” To be more precise, local officials have raised more than $3 million to launch this complicated project, meant to “preserve a symbol” of the area’s proud maritime heritage.

After the town and committee procured the finances, they needed to work out the technical strategy with ICC. To begin, the contractors need to dig a trench and install tracks and jacks so they can lift the granite foundation of the lighthouse. Once the lighthouse reaches the tracks–consisting of secure, reinforced steel beams–the ICC contractors will use special hydraulic motors to move the structure about a foot every five minutes. Throughout this entire process, the Gay Head Lighthouse will continue to cast its light out to sea so ships can navigate.

The moving process should take roughly three or four days, according to The Boston Globe, with the Massachusetts landmark traveling only 124 feet to its new location. ICC began the job yesterday, May 28 — a day Save the Gay Head Lighthouse committee chairman Len Butler referred to as “a historic moment for the town of Aquinnah and the entire island.”

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