BOSTON — Ten lighthouses that have stood sentinel along America’s coastlines for generations to ward off danger and guide them to safety are being given away at no cost or sold at auction by the federal government. Is.
The program, run by the General Services Administration, aims to preserve the properties, most of which are more than a century old.
Advances in modern technology, including GPS, means that lighthouses are no longer necessary for navigation, said John Kelly of the GSA’s Office of Real Property Disposition. And while the Coast Guard often maintains aids to navigation on or near lighthouses, the structures themselves are often not mission critical.
Yet the public remains fascinated with lighthouses, which are popular tourist attractions and the subject of countless photographers and artists.
“People really appreciate the heroic role of the solitary lighthouse keeper,” he said, explaining his allure. “They really were a means of providing safe passage into some of these dangerous ports, giving communities great opportunities for commerce, and they are often located in prime locations that offer breathtaking views.”
The GSA has been transferring ownership of lighthouses since Congress passed the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act in 2000. About 150 lighthouses have been transferred, 80 or so have been given away and another 70 have been auctioned off, raising more than $10 million.
This year, six lighthouses are being offered to federal, state or local government agencies, non-profits, educational organizations or other entities that maintain and preserve them and make them available to the public for educational, recreational or cultural purposes. willing to provide.
These include the 34-foot (10.4 m) long Plymouth/Garnet Light in Massachusetts. The octagonal wooden structure dates to 1842, although a lighthouse has been on the site since 1768. A previous beacon at the site was staffed by America’s first female lighthouse keeper.
Warwick Neck Light, which dates to 1827, near Narragansett Bay in Warwick, RI
Barbara Salfiti—AP/General Services Administration
Kelly’s personal favorite is Warwick Neck Light in Warwick, Rhode Island. The 51-foot (15.5-meter) tall lighthouse that dates back to 1827 was an important navigation tool for sailors making their way to Providence.
“Warwick Neck is actually in quite a prominent position on a cliff overlooking Narragansett Bay,” he said. “It’s probably one that I would say has a real ‘wow’ factor when you get out and see it.”
Other lighthouses being offered at no cost are Lynde Point Lighthouse in Old Saybrook, Connecticut; the Nobska Lighthouse in Falmouth, Massachusetts; Little Mark’s Island and Monument in Harpswell, Maine; and the Erie Harbor North Pier Lighthouse in Pennsylvania.
Kelly said some are already operated by nonprofits, and those agencies will have the opportunity to apply to continue doing so.
If a new owner is not found, the lighthouse is offered to competitive bidding at auction.
The four lighthouses being sold at auction include the Cleveland Harbor West Pierhead Light, a 50-foot (15.5-meter) 1911 steel tower that’s only accessible by boat but has stunning views of the city skyline.
The others are Penfield Reef Lighthouse in Fairfield, Connecticut; the Stratford Shoal Light in the middle of Long Island Sound between New York and Connecticut; and the Keweenaw Waterway Lower Entrance Light in Chassell, Michigan.
Some lighthouses that have been purchased in the past have been converted into private residences by those who want unique living conditions.
“They all have their own interesting history,” Kelly said.
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