“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Nantucket in Nantucket County, Massachusetts — The American Northeast (New England)

Sankaty Head Lighthouse

Established 1850

Sankaty Head Lighthouse Marker image. Click for full size.
July 18, 2019
1. Sankaty Head Lighthouse Marker
President George Washington signs into law the creation of the U.S. Lighthouse Establishment under the first Secretary of Treasury, Alexander Hamilton.
Congress establishes the U.S. Coastal Survey.
Nantucket astronomer William Mitchell observes that nearly 45,000 ships of all designs have passed near Nantucket Shoals.
Congress appropriates $12,000 for the construction of a lighthouse on this site; included is the cost of the 10-acre parcel: $250.
Supervised by engineer Benjamin Franklin Isherwood, construction begins and includes a brick keeper's house, which would become home of the light's first full-time keeper, Alexander D. Bunker.
Sankaty Light flashes for the first time. Powered by a whale-oil lantern, it shines through a "second order" Fresnel lens, one of the most powerful lenses in use in its day. The lens remained in use for 100 years; it is now on display at the Nantucket Whaling Museum.
Congress reorganizes the Lighthouse Establishment, changes its name to the Lighthouse Board
Sankaty Head Lighthouse image. Click for full size.
2. Sankaty Head Lighthouse
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and creates the U.S. Lighthouse Service. Citing the superior power of Sankaty Light's beam, the Board orders all U.S. lighthouses to have Fresnel lenses.
Sankaty Light's lantern is raised an additional 10 feet.
An incandescent oil-vapor lamp is installed to improve the projection of the light.
Sankaty Lighthouse is electrified, further increasing its candlepower.
The Fresnel lens is removed and replaced by a modern rotating aero beacon.
The U.S. Coast Guard removes the deteriorating cast-iron lantern room, which had withstood 120 years of salt spray, hurricanes and nor'easters. After hearing complaints about the tower's new "look," the current aluminum replacement lantern is installed.
Vigorous erosion during this period makes it apparent that the lighthouse may have to be moved to safer ground.
The 'Sconset Trust is formed.
Sankaty Light is placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Newly-established volunteer group, Save Our Sankaty, heightens community awareness of the lighthouse's plight.
With continuing erosion of the bluff, Preservation Massachusetts places Sankaty Light on its Ten Most Endangered Resources list.
Compass Rose near Lighthouse image. Click for full size.
July 18, 2019
3. Compass Rose near Lighthouse
Sankaty Head Lighthouse
Erected 1849
Illuminated 1850
Acquired and Moved by The 'Sconset Trust 2007
'Sconset Trust, Save Our Sankaty, the Nantucket Historical Association and the U.S. Coast Guard engage in a concerted effort to address the fate of Sankaty Light.
As erosion continues apace taking an average 3 feet per year from the bluff, the 'Sconset Trust and its members work with federal, state and local officials to prepare for the relocation of Sankaty Light. The Trust contracts the International Chimney, Inc., of Buffalo, N.Y., the established U.S. expert in relocating and preserving lighthouses.
With funding and permits in place, the site is prepared and a new foundation is built 405 feet to the northwest on Sankaty Head Golf Club land. The 10-day move is completed October 10th.
Under the ownership of the 'Sconset Trust, the lighthouse is preserved at its new location, and the landscape is restored.
Photo: Harry Turner, courtesy of Rob Benchley
Erected by The 'Sconset Trust.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: ArchitectureWaterways & Vessels. In addition, it is included in the Lighthouses series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1789.
Location. 41° 16.996′ N, 69° 57.903′ W. Marker is in Nantucket, Massachusetts, in Nantucket County
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. Marker is on Baxter Road north of Bayberry Sias Lane when traveling north. Located at the entrance of the lighthouse area. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 122 Baxter Road, Nantucket MA 02554, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 7 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Sankaty Head Geology (within shouting distance of this marker); The Wreck of the H.P. Kirkham (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Desert Shield And Desert Storm Memorial (approx. 7 miles away); Nantucket World War II Monument (approx. 7 miles away); Korean Conflict, World War I, and Vietnam Era Memorial (approx. 7 miles away); Thomas Turner Square (approx. 7 miles away); R.H. Macy (approx. 7 miles away); "Town’s Meridian Line"… (approx. 7 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Nantucket.
Also see . . .
1. Sankaty Head Lighthouse - The ’Sconset Trust. (Submitted on August 15, 2021, by Michael Herrick of Southbury, Connecticut.)
2. Sankaty Head Light (Wikipedia). (Submitted on August 15, 2021, by Michael Herrick of Southbury, Connecticut.)
Credits. This page was last revised on August 15, 2021. It was originally submitted on August 12, 2021. This page has been viewed 96 times since then and 19 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on August 12, 2021. • Michael Herrick was the editor who published this page.

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Mar. 29, 2023