Digest>Archives> Jul/Aug 2014

Book Reviews: Gay Head Lighthouse

By Timothy Harrison


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If someone writes about a lighthouse, the perfect candidate would be someone who already has some interest in the lighthouse, and even better, someone who lives on the island where the lighthouse is located. Such is the case with the new book, Gay Head Lighthouse, The First Light on Martha’s Vineyard, written by William Waterway, who has been extremely active in trying to save the now endangered Gay Head Lighthouse on Martha’s Vineyard since the early 1980s.

Probably ninety percent of the people who have ever visited Martha’s Vineyard, since the current lighthouse was built, have visited the Gay Head Lighthouse, which makes a book like this, one that provides a complete detailed in-depth account of the history of the lighthouse, so important.

The author has used great detail to provide a complete written history of the light station from its early pre-beginnings, to the first tower, and then the second and current tower. Gay Head Lighthouse was the first lighthouse in the country to be staffed by a Native American, whose heritage has come to symbolize everything that is good about the lighthouse, something that the author has done a fantastic job of providing to the reader.

Other interesting areas covered in the book include the secret war-time military activities at the lighthouse, the mysterious deaths that occurred there, and the epic battle over the Fresnel lens.

One section of the book is more like a research report than an historical account, which is sometimes a little dry, but this does not detract for the overall quality of this extremely well-researched book. I’ve always gone with the old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and in the case of Gay Head Lighthouse the author was able to locate numerous historic color and black and white images, many that have remained elusive to many historians and researchers, which provides the reader with a broader perspective of what they are reading about.

Gay Head Lighthouse, The First Light on Martha’s Vineyard is a soft cover book with 160-pages and historical images. It is available as item #2157 for $19.99 plus shipping, from Lighthouse Digest, P.O. Box 250, East Machias, ME 04630, or on-line at www.LighthouseDigest.com. Or you can call 207-259-2121 to order a copy.

This story appeared in the Jul/Aug 2014 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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