There's something inherently captivating about lighthouses, with their rich maritime history, breathtaking views, and enchanting coastal allure. For many, owning a lighthouse perched majestically on a windswept cliff has always been a cherished dream. But is it possible to turn this dream into reality?
Based on how excited you were about the post, Privately Owned Lighthouses: Celebrating Heritage Beyond Museums, I figured I could offer a helpful guide on the process of finding and purchasing a lighthouse. It's important to note that some lighthouses are fully decommissioned and private, but others may still have specific regulations and requirements as active navigational aids. Regardless of their status, embarking on the journey to own a lighthouse can be a truly rewarding adventure.
How to find available lighthouses for sale:
1. Government Agencies:
Government agencies responsible for maritime affairs and coastal management often own lighthouses that are no longer in active service. These agencies occasionally put lighthouses up for sale. Keep an eye on their websites or contact them directly for information on available properties.
The National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000 (NHLPA) established the sharing of lighthouses with the public. Since the NHLPA started, more than 151 lighthouses have been sold or transferred out of federal ownership with 70 sold by auction to the public and 81 transferred at no cost to eligible entities.
The US General Service Administration (GSA) is an agency that supports the NHLPA mission of disposing of lighthouses in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont, U.S. Virgin Islands and Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Annually, they open the popular lighthouse disposal to the public in June. The yearly program allows some lighthouses to be purchased through an online auction, while others are earmarked for transfer to approved stewards from federal agencies, state and local governments, nonprofit corporations, and educational and community development organizations at no cost.
The 2023 list of available lighthouses open to the public is live now and contains 4 options. One of the options, the Keweenaw Waterway Lower Entrance Light, is my neighbor and was the “modern” replacement for the Portage Rover Lighthouse, (sounds like another blog post to write). You can check the list out here:
2. Real Estate Websites:
This is the route we took…
Certain real estate websites and agents specializing in unique properties and historical buildings occasionally list lighthouses for sale. They often provide detailed information and photographs to help you make informed decisions. One such site is Old House Dreams.
Since I wasn't specifically searching for a lighthouse, I don’t know much about these specialty real estate sites. Instead, we knew that we wanted property on the banks of Lake Superior and so I would spend evenings searching for just the right lakefront property on sites like Zillow and Realtor.com. Quite literally I would zoom in on the map and start looking at property for sale, and that's when I found the Portage River Lighthouse in Jacobsville for sale.
3. Engage with Lighthouse Enthusiast Communities:
As a newcomer to the lighthouse community, this is one tip I wish I had known about earlier. Our Lighthouse enthusiasts, historians, and preservationists often gather in online communities or forums dedicated to lighthouses. Joining these communities can prove invaluable as they provide a wealth of knowledge, including insights on lighthouses for sale, firsthand experiences, and connections to individuals who may have leads on available properties. Engaging with these communities will expand your network and provide valuable insights based on the experiences of others.
The list of potential communities is endless. Here are a few communities that I enjoy:
Lighthouses of the Great Lakes Facebook Group (Let Ryan know I sent you)
Bonus tip #4….
Just Google it! To avoid irrelevant results, I suggest entering a detailed search string on Google. I entered “Great Lake Lighthouse for sale 2023” and found some great listings!
Becoming the proud owner of a lighthouse is a dream that can become reality with the right research, patience, and determination. Through thorough exploration of government agencies, online communities, real estate sites, and diligent search engine queries, you can uncover hidden gems waiting to become yours. Remember, the purchase of a lighthouse entails unique responsibilities, including preservation efforts and adherence to regulations, but the reward of owning a piece of maritime history is immeasurable. Embark on your journey to find the perfect lighthouse and let its guiding light illuminate your dreams.
Feel free to share your experiences with me.