Moving Sankaty -November/December 2007

After years of planning and months of preparation, Sankaty Light is moved to safer ground.

by: Joshua H. Balling

photography by: Jim Powers

Inching along at a snail’s pace, Sankaty Light hardly appeared to be moving at all. But in a meticulously slow process that took 10 days at the end of September and beginning of October, move it did: 400 feet to the northwest and down a 12-foot grade to a new home on more stable ground near the fifth hole of the Sankaty Head Golf Club.

The iconic island lighthouse, standing 70 feet tall and weighing 550 tons, was propped up on a latticework of massive I-beams and wooden cribbing set atop steel rails greased with Ivory Soap. It was gently pushed by hydraulic jacks along a landing-strip shaped move-path until safely ensconced atop its new foundation: about 280 feet from a bluff overlooking the Atlantic at the end of Baxter Road in Sconset.

In its original location at the end of September, Sankaty sat less than 75 feet from the edge of the steep and eroding cliff, one or two major storms away from catastrophe, and only a few feet removed from making a safe move next to impossible.

So after years of planning and months of preparation, workmen from International Chimney of Rochester, N.Y. and Expert House Movers of Maryland – which have moved the 5,000-ton, 200-foot Cape Hatteras Light, Block Island Light, Cape Cod Light and a terminal at Newark Airport the size of a football field – the third week in September began lifting the structure in preparation for its move.

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