U.S. to auction off lighthouses in Connecticut, New York, Ohio and Michigan


If you’ve ever fantasized about owning a historic lighthouse, now may be the time.

The U.S. government is offering at least 10 lighthouses to the public and government agencies as demand for the once-critical maritime facilities declines due to technology such as GPS. Some of the buildings, which can be centuries old, have colorful histories — and some are even said to have ghosts.

The General Services Administration will put up four lighthouses for auction to the public, it said in a news release Friday. It will also offer six lighthouses to federal agencies, state or local governments, nonprofits or educational agencies willing to take over the buildings’ upkeep. The GAS offers lighthouses each May, and the number being made available this year is a record, it said.

Others saw a rusty old lighthouse. This man saw opportunity.

The lighthouses available for auction are the Penfield Reef Lighthouse in Fairfield, Conn.; the Stratford Shoal Light in New York; the Cleveland Harbor West Pierhead Light in Ohio and the Keweenaw Waterway Lower Entrance Light in Chassell, Mich.

The Penfield Reef Lighthouse is said to be haunted, according to Lighthouse Friends, a website that contains an exhaustive list of such facilities in the United States and Canada. Frederick A. Jordan, the keeper, sought to row himself to shore from the lighthouse in 1916, to spend the Christmas holidays with his family. The boat capsized.

Since then, Jordan’s ghost has allegedly appeared multiple times, according to Rudolph Iten, who claimed to have seen an apparition exit Jordan’s former room. In the Lighthouse Friends article, Iten said he had found the logbook taken down from the shelf and opened to the page describing Jordan’s death.

The lighthouses made available to government institutions or educational groups are the Lynde Point Lighthouse in Connecticut, the Nobska and Plymouth/Gurnet lighthouses in Massachusetts, the Warwick Neck Light in Rhode Island, the Little Mark Island and Monument in Maine and the Erie Harbor North Pier Lighthouse in Pennsylvania.

The Plymouth Lighthouse was home to the United States’ first female keeper. Keeper John Thomas, worked there until he joined the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. When he died of smallpox in 1776 while in service, his wife Hannah took over, according to Lighthouse Friends.

Under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, the lighthouses may be transferred at no cost to government agencies, nonprofits and educational groups, but the acquiring entities must have the finances to maintain the lighthouses and must make them available for the public “at reasonable times and under reasonable conditions,” the GAS said in the news release.

If a lighthouse is not acquired by any of these institutions, it is then offered to the public at auction.

The annual offering aims to raise money for the Coast Guard’s Aids to Navigation mission, a program that involves installing buoys, radio beacons or fog signals that serve as street signs on waterways. Previous sales since 2000 have raised more than $10 million, the GSA said.

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