The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Plenty of light! Federal government shedding lighthouses; buyers transform them

  • Print

YORK, Maine - Lighthouses for sale! Actually, lots of lighthouses for free.

Technological advances and a desire to purge unneeded properties have paved the way for the federal government to get rid of more than 100 lighthouses over the last 14 years, and it intends to keep selling and giving them away. The sold lighthouses, located on both coasts and in the Great Lakes states, have become everything from museums to bed-and-breakfasts.

Dave Waller, who purchased the Graves Island Light Station in the mouth of Boston Harbor for a record $933,888 last year, is retrofitting the turn-of-the-century lighthouse into a private home that can double as a vacation rental. He's trying to fashion a bedroom as far as possible from the foghorn — a challenging feat in a building with about 750 feet of livable space.

"It just seemed like a chance to have something a little more independent and on your own," Waller said.

Sixty-eight of the lighthouses have gone for free to preservationists while 36 others sold at public auction thanks to the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000, which allows the government to dispose of federally-owned lighthouses. The act turns 14 next month. The Coast Guard, which maintains lighthouses, has 71 other lighthouses queued up to go through the transfer process, and four are at auction now.

The Coast Guard owns 254 light houses, officials said. The question is more about which ones it will keep than which ones it will eventually sell, said Jeff Gales, executive director of the non-profit U.S. Lighthouse Society.

"There is an end in sight," Gales said. "There's a limited number of lighthouses."

The federal General Services Administration, which sells the lighthouses, does not have a target number of how many lighthouses it would like to sell and give away, but the Coast Guard is always looking to shed excess lighthouses that "are often no longer critical" to the guard's work, said Patrick Sclafani, a spokesman for the agency. Buyers and preservationists typically allow the Coast Guard access to the lighthouses so it can maintain the lights, all of which are automated.

The administration is the nearing the end of an online auction for the Halfway Rock Light Station off of Harpswell, Maine. The lighthouse is attracting interest, with a half dozen bidders and a high bid of more than $240,000. That's a good figure for a lighthouse that is only accessible by boat, a feature that frequently drives bidders away, Gales said.

Some of the lighthouses — typically those that are easily accessed on land — are transferred swiftly to historic preservation groups, while others that are off-shore or in need of heavy maintenance languish on the auction block with no interested bidders. Still others attract the eye of private investors, such as Boston's Waller.

Officials say the GSA's Boston office has been responsible for about 80 per cent of lighthouse conveyances and those transfers have netted $3.35 million for the Coast Guard.

That office closed out an auction of New England's tallest lighthouse, the Boon Island Light Station off of York, Maine, in August with a top bid of $78,000 out of 12 bidders. Winning bidder Art Girard of Portland, Maine, will inherit the 133-foot lighthouse and a challenge: it is located on an isolated, rocky island six miles off the Maine coast, barely salient from Cape Neddick in York.

The government also is currently auctioning lighthouses in Massachusetts, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Gary Lawless & Tim Campbell on the Jets' inconsistency - Jets This Week Oct. 16

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • PHIL.HOSSACK@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 100527-Winnipeg Free Press THe Provencher Foot Bridge is lit up
  • Challenges of Life- Goose Goslings jump over railway tracks to catch up to their parents at the Canadian Pacific Railway terminalon Keewatin St in Winnipeg Thursday morning. The young goslings seem to normally hatch in the truck yard a few weeks before others in town- Standup photo- ( Day 4 of Bryksa’s 30 day goose project) - Apr 30, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Will you get out and vote for a new mayor and council?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google