Here’s How to Move a One-Million-Pound Lighthouse

The iconic Gay Head Lighthouse will move just 139 feet south, but it takes a lot of patience and power to do so. 

Since 1856, the Gay Head Lighthouse has sat undisturbed on the Martha’s Vineyard coastline. But it’s time for the iconic structure to move inland before the cliffside completely erodes and tumps it onto the beach. So how do you tote a house that is light in name only?

Moving the 460-ton brick-and-mortar lighthouse not even 50 yards will require planning and patience. Enter Jerry Matyiko, a 69-year-old who has a long resume of moving big buildings and structures. “Who doesn’t love a lighthouse?” he recently told Bloomberg. For the past few months, he has guided a team to hoist the lighthouse 6 feet off the ground, onto a massive frame so it can move 139 feet inland. The move, which begins today and finishes Saturday, is costing $3 million.

Bloomberg explains: "First step at Gay Head: to get under the lighthouse with a first set of steel H beams. Matyiko has his crew dig tunnels under the lighthouse base. Into each of these tunnels are placed crossbeams more than 40-feet long. These beams are all jacked up, pushing the lighthouse two feet or so into the air. Into the gap between lighthouse and ground goes a railroad-track system of other beams pointed toward the final destination. Hydraulic rams are attached to the track system and push the lighthouse on the tracks to its endpoint."

It’s a slow process with the lighthouse only moving a foot an hour. When it’s settled, a new foundation will be constructed around it.