View of old Edgartown Lighthouse from the water, 1914
This photograph, taken from the water, shows many of the additions that were made to the old keeper’s house, including the large shed added in 1892 (left side) and the fog bell added in 1908 (right side).
Compare it to the photo below to see just how many change had been made in the previous few decades.
The light house service proposed replacing the Edgartown Harbor Light with more austere automated structure, similar to the type of tower that stood at the end of the Oak Bluffs jetty at the time (shown in this sketch published in the Vineyard Gazette).
August 1, 1938 - In a 301-0 vote, Edgartown residents express their preference for the existing lighthouse over the proposed skeleton structure
Coverage by the Vineyard Gazette from the summer of '38 shows the intense back and forth that occurred between Islanders and government officials.
In this article Islanders voiced their initial outrage at the project, concerned that the replacement tower would be ugly and not work as well. After being reassured that the actual light would be taller and brighter than the existing one, and therefor be a better aid to navigation, locals continued to object to the change, arguing that the old lighthouse held great historic and scenic value.
August 12, 1938 - The chief engineer of the Lighthouse Service is sent to Edgartown to look into the issue further
Official Sketch of Proposed Edgartown Harbor Lighthouse, August 23, 1938
After a series of miscommunications and continued objections to a skeleton tower by locals, an alternative plan was agreed upon. The town would receive a picturesque white tower, similar to the East Chop Light. This watercolor sketch was published in the Vineyard Gazette to reassure locals and show what the new tower would look like.
Hurricane damage to the Edgartown Lighthouse, 1938
In September, the old lighthouse weathered its final big storm, the 1938 Hurricane. Damage was caused to the bridge and lighthouse foundation, delay the renovation plans slightly.
The hurricane did its most significant damage to the base the lighthouse stood on, which lost several large rocks on the harbor side. Outgoing keeper Frank Vidler, who was already preparing for his departure, had to act quickly to rescue his packed-up belongings from the storage shed on that side as the foundation gave way below it. The town awoke the morning after the storm to see the outer edge of the shed hanging in mid-air.
Old Edgartown Lighthouse shortly before demolition, October 1938
This is the last image of the old Edgartown Harbor Light in the Museum’s collection. On the right you can see where the ruins of the old storage shed have been removed. In March, the foundation was repaired in preparation for the new lighthouse's arrival.
Aerial photograph of Edgartown Lighthouse and Harbor, c. 1960
Over the years, hurricanes and winter storms have pounded the shores of Martha’s Vineyard, causing sands to shift and shorelines to be reshaped. Since the 1950s a barrier beach has gradually grown up around the lighthouse. This photograph, taken from a plane, shows the state of Lighthouse Beach over a decade into this process. Today, the beach extends around 300 feet further to the east.
1970 - Edgartown acquires Lighthouse Beach
1987 - Edgartown Harbor Light is added to the National Register of Historic Places
July 14, 2001 Children’s Memorial dedicated at the lighthouse
The Martha's Vineyard Museum has acted as stewards of the Lighthouse since 1993. Shortly after the Coast Guard declared the lighthouse no longer "mission-critical" in 2012 ownership of the lighthouse transferred to the town of Edgartown, with the Museum continuing to act as stewards.