Ten lighthouses that for generations have stood like sentinels along America’s shores, protecting sailors from peril and guiding them to safety, are being given away for free or auctioned off by the federal government.
The program run by the General Services Administration aims to preserve the properties, most of which are over 100 years old.
The development of modern technology, including GPS, means that lighthouses are no longer essential for navigation, said John Kelly of the GSA’s Property Disposition Office. And while the Coast Guard often maintains aids to navigation at or near lighthouses, the structures themselves are often no longer mission critical.
Yet the public remains fascinated by beacons, which are popular tourist attractions and the subject of countless photographers and artists.
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“People really appreciate the heroic role of the lone lighthouse keeper,” he said, explaining their appeal. “They were truly the instruments to ensure safe passage through some of these perilous ports which provided communities with great trading opportunities, and they are often located in prominent locations which offer breathtaking views.”
The GSA has transferred ownership of lighthouses since Congress passed the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act in 2000. About 150 lighthouses have been transferred, about 80 donated and another 70 auctioned off, raising more than $10 million. .
This year, six lighthouses are offered free of charge to federal, state, or local government agencies, nonprofit organizations, educational organizations, or other entities that wish to maintain and preserve them and make them accessible to the public for educational purposes. , recreational or cultural.
They include the 34-foot-tall Plymouth/Gurnet Light in Massachusetts. The octagonal wooden structure dates from 1842, although a lighthouse has stood on the site since 1768. A previous beacon on the site was occupied by America’s first female lightkeeper.
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Kelly’s favorite is Warwick Neck Light, in Warwick, Rhode Island. The 51-foot-tall lighthouse that dates to 1827 was an important navigational tool for sailors heading to Providence.
“Warwick Neck is really at a pretty prominent spot on a bluff overlooking Narragansett Bay,” he said. “It’s probably the one that I would say has a real ‘Wow’ factor when you go out and watch it.”
Other lighthouses offered for free are Lynde Point Lighthouse in Old Saybrook, Connecticut; Nobska Lighthouse in Falmouth, Massachusetts; Little Mark Island and Monument in Harpswell, Maine; and the Erie Harbor North Pier Lighthouse in Pennsylvania.
Some are already run by nonprofits, and those agencies will have the opportunity to apply to continue to do so, Kelly said.
If a new owner is not found, the lighthouse is put up for auction.
The four lighthouses up for auction include Cleveland Harbor West Pierhead Light, a 50ft steel tower dating from 1911 that is only accessible by boat but offers spectacular views of the city skyline.
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The others are the Penfield Reef Lighthouse in Fairfield, Connecticut; Stratford Shoal Light in the middle of Long Island Sound between New York and Connecticut; and Keweenaw Waterway Lower Entrance Light in Chassell, Michigan.
Some of the lighthouses purchased in the past have been converted into private residences by people who desire a unique living situation.
“They all have their own interesting story,” Kelly said.