There are hundreds of historic lighthouses on the United States oceanfront. Some are still in use, and some are not, but as shorelines shift, many are at risk from the encroaching sea. That inconvenient truth is job security for 68-year-old Navy veteran Jerry Matyiko, whose company, Expert House Movers, Inc., has successfully moved no fewer than six endangered lighthouses in his career in cooperation with New York firm International Chimney Corporation. This spring, Matyiko moved his latest lighthouse, the Gay Head Light on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
Bloomberg Business reported on Matyiko’s work in late May (see: “Relocating a 460-Ton Lighthouse Is No Big Deal to This Mega-Mover,” by Tom Moroney). “This is Matyiko’s sixth lighthouse rescue, and the work promises to be one of the resort island’s top attractions as it heads into summer on this Memorial Day weekend,” Bloomberg reports. “In 1999 he moved the 208-foot Cape Hatteras beacon in North Carolina, the tallest in the U.S., more than a half-mile from the encroaching ocean. Crowds watching were so big that restaurant and shop owners asked him to slow down the job so they could continue to reap the rewards.”
Martha’s Vineyard tradesman Len Butler, a foreman for island builder John G. Early Co., gave interested locals a look at preparations just before the move in this YouTube video (see: “Exclusive behind the scenes tour of the Gay Head Lighthouse pre move,” by Gay Head Lighthouse Documentary).
The Boston Globe covered the big move on May 28 (see: “Team begins moving venerable Martha’s Vineyard lighthouse,” by David Abel). Writes the Globe: “When officials began looking into preserving the lighthouse in 2012, they learned the contractors would need 30 feet to dig a trench to install the jacks that would lift the granite foundation and the tracks it would travel upon. That meant if the cliffs eroded another 16 feet, workers would no longer be able to move the lighthouse.”
With that fact boosting their sense of urgency, Vineyard locals reached an arrangement with International Chimney Corporation, a company with a successful track record locally as well as nationwide. Writes the Globe: “The company’s biggest job was moving the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in North Carolina, the nation’s tallest brick lighthouse and 10 times the weight of the Gay Head structure. International Chimney crews in 1999 moved Cape Hatteras Lighthouse more than a half-mile in 23 days. The company has also moved Highland Light in Truro, Nauset Light in Eastham, and Sankaty Head Lighthouse in Nantucket, which was transported away from an eroding bluff in 2007.”
The Martha’s Vineyard Times has the wrap-up here (see: “Gay Head Lighthouse move is complete,” by Nelson Sigelman). “The building, which weighs in at 400 tons, traveled along metal I-beams on a path chosen for both its elevation and for the stability of the clay,” the Times reported. “Project managers said they hope the new location will be stable for another 150 years.”
Here’s a time-lapse sequence of the successful move (see: “SNEAK PEEK timelapse of the Gay Head Lighthouse move from a forthcoming documentary,” by Gay Head Lighthouse Documentary).