Ram Island Ledge Light was sold at auction Tuesday for $190,000, ending an online bidding war that made it one of the priciest lighthouses to be put on the market in the Northeast.
The winner was Dr. Jeffrey Florman, a neurosurgeon from Windham, said Paula Santangelo, a spokeswoman for the U.S. General Services Administration in Boston. While bidders in such federal auctions can remain anonymous, the identity of winners is public information, Santangelo said.
Florman, however, did not confirm that he was the winner. During a brief telephone conversation Tuesday, Florman said, “the winner is officially anonymous.”
Florman had publicly acknowledged making a series of earlier bids for the lighthouse, some under the nickname “MAINE.” He didn’t have specific plans for the lighthouse, he said then, but wanted to keep it in Maine hands.
The winning bid on Tuesday was made under a new nickname, “redtide.”
Ram Island Ledge Light rises 77 feet from a wave-swept ledge off Cape Elizabeth, at the entrance to Portland Harbor. Before being automated in 1959, the 105-year-old lighthouse was maintained by keepers who lived in isolation and used kerosene lamps and foghorns to assist mariners.
The U.S. Coast Guard will continue to maintain the automated light and foghorn. But, lacking money for upkeep, the Coast Guard decided to give away or sell the property, along with numerous other lighthouses around the country.
Ram Island Ledge Light was offered at no cost to local governments and nonprofits, but there were no takers. So in June, the federal government started an online auction.
Bidding began at $10,000 but didn’t heat up until this month as the deadline approached. The price jumped from $30,000 on Sept. 1 to $190,000 before the official close at 3 p.m. Tuesday.
It was clearly a successful auction for the government, aided by news coverage of the bidding war in Boston, New York and Washington, D.C.
More accessible lighthouses have sold for $70,000 to $100,000. The highest price paid for any lighthouse in the Northeast is $225,000, which was the high bid last month for Latimer Reef Lighthouse in Fisher’s Island Sound, N.Y., said Santangelo.
The price for Ram Island Ledge might have gone even higher if not for a friendly side agreement last week.
Florman and a local real estate developer, Arthur Girard, decided to end their bidding war over the lighthouse by flipping a coin. Florman called “heads,” won the toss and continued bidding. Girard dropped out.
Santangelo said Florman will receive the winner’s official notice in a few days and then will have 60 days to close the sale with the General Services Administration.
Future uses of the property will be limited.
The tower stands on ledge that is under water at high tide and can be approached only in calm seas. The front door is at the top of a 30-foot-tall exterior ladder.
Inside, the tower has winding stairs and an enameled brick interior. But it has no utilities and is being sold as is, without any estimate of how much may be needed for repairs.
The new owner also will have to maintain the property in accordance with historic preservation guidelines.
Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at: [email protected]