Offbeat
12:00 pm
Tue July 12, 2011

Would you like to own a Great Lakes lighthouse?

You've got 1 day 3 hours left to put your bid on the Fairport Harbor West Breakwater Light in Fairport Harbor, Ohio on Lake Erie.

Current bid is $39,500 (you might need to scrape a little paint).

Or if living in a red tube is your idea of fun, you might consider the Kenosha North Pierhead Light on Lake Michigan in southeast Wisconsin. The auction for this light closes tomorrow as well, July 13.

The Washington Post has a story on the federal government's efforts to auction off old, out-of-date lighthouses that no longer serve as navigational aids because of the advent of radar, unmanned light towers, and satellite navigation.

They first try to sell the lighthouses to groups or other public entities that will preserve the lighthouse for historical purposes. If that doesn't work, they go up for public auction.

Right now, the U.S. General Services Administration wants to give away 12 historic lighthouses to state or local entities, nonprofit corporations, historic preservation groups, or community development organizations.

Four of these historic lighthouses are on the Great Lakes.

  1. The Ile aux Galetts Light in northeast Lake Michigan;
  2. The Port Austin Reef Light off the coast of Michigan's Thumb;
  3. The Alpena Light in northeast Michigan;
  4. And the Milwaukee Breakwater Lighthouse in Wisconsin

From a GSA press release:

The U.S. General Services Administration is looking for a few good stewards to preserve a key slice of the nation's maritime history...

“These diverse lighthouses are testaments to the richness and beauty of American history and serve as markers of exploration and discovery,” said PBS Deputy Commissioner of Public Buildings David Foley. "GSA is committed to ensuring that these national beacons of light and life are transferred to new stewards dedicated to preserving their historic significance."

GSA, in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of Interior's National Park Service, administers the federal program that conveys historic lighthouses to new stewards under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act.

If a local government entity or a preservation group doesn't take on these lighthouses, you could bid on them. And if you enter the winning bid, you could tell your friends you own a lighthouse.

From the Washington Post:

“There’re a number of people who like to say, ‘Hey, I own a lighthouse.’ It’s good cocktail party conversation,” said John E.B. Smith, the deputy assistant commissioner for Real Property Utilization and Disposal for the GSA’s Public Building Service....

“They’re in varying states of repair or disrepair,” Smith said. “They’re not cheap to maintain."

The Washington Post reports that over the last six years, 22 lighthouses have been sold to the public, "with prices ranging from $10,000 to $260,000."