The Sankaty Head Lighthouse Restoration Project

sankaty head lighthouse

Locals and tourists alike are anticipating the June reopening of the iconic Sankaty Head Lighthouse in Nantucket.

The Sankaty Head Lighthouse Restoration Project The lighthouse will be open to the public to enjoy thanks to the generosity and dedication of donors, the challenging work of volunteers, government officials, local island businesses, and the ongoing care provided by the Sconset Trust Board of Directors.

The Sankaty Head Lighthouse Restoration

Donors and funding provided by the Community Preservation Committee have enabled the restoration of the Sankaty Head Lighthouse which is located on seven acres in Nantucket. Members turned out for a major celebration gala to help fund the construction work. The major overhaul is scheduled to take several months to complete.
The restoration will focus on much-needed repairs to the following:

  • Ships ladder
  • Stairs
  • Gallery deck
  • Windows
  • Workroom

Sponge sandblasting will take care of the lighthouse’s interior. The work crew will also restore the lantern house and rehab the railing, floor, gallery deck, and lighthouse windows.

During the restoration construction project, the lighthouse is closed.

History of the Sankaty Head Lighthouse

The Sankaty Head Lighthouse Restoration Project In 1849, the Sankaty Head Lighthouse was constructed using a budget of $12,000 which was provided by federal funding. The final cost of the lighthouse construction was $10,330. Upon completion, the Sankaty Head Lighthouse was 158 feet above sea level.

The original flashing bright light was illuminated using only a single whale oil lamp behind and amplified by a classic French Frenal lens. Now the original lens is located at the Nantucket Historical Association. To keep the whale oil lamp burning, the lighthouse keeper and his assistant would work four-hour shifts 24 hours a day. They could not alter the schedule or risk the lamp burning out.

The Sankaty Head Lighthouse has been actively shining for 160 years. The light is stunningly brilliant and visible for 25 miles at sea. The light rotates every 7.5 seconds. In 1933, the whale oil lamp was retired, and the light was converted to electricity. The lighthouse became completely automated in 1965.

From 1850 to 1944, the lighthouse served as a home to the lighthouse keeper and his family. In 1944, the U.S. Coast Guard took control of the house and continues to manage it.

Moving the Iconic Nantucket Sankaty Head Lighthouse

Mother Nature can take a toll on bluffs, especially those located near the ocean. From 1894 to 1999, ongoing storms caused widespread erosion on the lighthouse bluff and eventually eroded away 195 feet of the land located by the lighthouse. From 1999, the bluff was losing around three feet each year to erosion. By 2006, the lighthouse was located only 72 feet from the edge of the bluff. Left unchecked, the historic Sankaty Head Lighthouse would eventually come tumbling down into the raging ocean.

The Sankaty Head Lighthouse Restoration Project In 2007, the Sconset Trust took control of the lighthouse. At that time, the 405-ton lighthouse was standing only 68 feet from the bluff’s edge. To save the lighthouse, the only choice was to move it to safety. The Sconset Trust set to move the lighthouse 405 feet to a location northwest of the original site. The move took place in October 2007. Currently, the Sankaty Head Lighthouse sits a safe 267 feet from the edge of the bluff.

If you would like to learn more about the Sankaty Head Lighthouse’s 2007 move, then you’ll want to check out the photo book titled, Keeping the Light by Robert Benchley and Bob Felch

Visit the Sankaty Head Lighthouse

The Sankaty Head Lighthouse restoration is scheduled for completion by June. The Community Preservation Committee and donors are planning on Open Days in the spring when you can visit the historic lighthouse.

  • Lighthouse Open Day
    June 17, 2023, from 10:30 am – 2:30 pm
  • Fall Lighthouse Open Day
    October 7, 2023, from 10:30 am – 2:30 pm
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