Two men who hope to buy Ram Island Ledge Light agreed Friday to end their bidding war with a coin flip, which put a doctor from Windham in position to buy the tower at the entrance to Portland Harbor for $180,000.

Arthur Girard and Dr. Jeffrey Florman had been topping each other’s bids through much of this week, along with an unknown bidder whose name in the online auction is “tugdocto.”

If “tugdocto” or another bidder doesn’t top Florman’s offer by 3 p.m. Monday, the 105-year-old lighthouse, and the wind- and wave-swept ledge on which it stands, will be his.

Girard and Florman met Thursday night and agreed that they want to see the lighthouse kept in Maine hands. They tentatively decided to flip a coin, with the loser stepping aside from further bidding, Florman said.

The two agreed to wait until Friday morning for their final decision, to give Florman time to think about it overnight, he said.

“We just both found that we had very similar interests in protecting and being stewards of that property, and we realized it really didn’t matter whose hands it ended up in,” as long as the lighthouse is owned by a Mainer who is interested in preserving it, Florman said.

Florman called Girard early Friday to say he wanted to go ahead with the coin flip. When Girard said he might not be able to get to Maine Medical Center in Portland — where the neurosurgeon was scheduled to operate — Florman suggested that Girard just flip the coin in his office.

Beth Bernard, one of Girard’s associates, said the real estate developer was so touched by the trust shown by Florman that he dropped his morning plans and went to Maine Med to flip the coin in person.

Florman and another doctor, both dressed in operating room scrubs, met Girard on a sidewalk outside the hospital and unceremoniously flipped the coin.

Florman called heads and won.

“Use it in good health,” Girard said, according to Bernard.

Girard feels that “even though he lost the lighthouse, he has made a friend,” Bernard said.

“The people of Maine should be happy with the outcome,” Florman said. “Everybody has the same goal, and I think we’ve achieved it on some level.”

Florman noted that he changed his online bidding name from “abcdefg” to “MAINE” to reflect the interest in ownership by someone in the state.

The light and the foghorn will continue to be maintained by the Coast Guard. The auction is being run by the U.S. General Services Administration, which took title from the Coast Guard. Future uses of the lighthouse off Cape Elizabeth will be limited by historic-preservation guidelines.

Florman said he has no firm plans for the lighthouse, assuming his bid isn’t topped.

He will meet with Robert Muller, who solicited pledges for earlier bids on social networking websites and wants to form a for-profit enterprise to sell as many as 500,000 “membership deeds” that would fund an interactive lighthouse website and a trust for preservation of the tower.

Florman said he’s also interested in hearing other ideas for the lighthouse.

 

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: [email protected]