Looking for a property with ocean views on all sides, a vintage 1800s stone tower and plenty of space between you and the neighbors?
You’re in luck, because both Halfway Rock Light Station off Harpswell and Boon Island Light Station off York went on sale Wednesday, as part of a federal program to rid the government of the expensive-to-maintain structures.
But it’s a little unclear exactly what you could do with the prized lighthouses.
As part of the sales agreement, each one must continue to be a navigation aid for boat traffic, meaning the Coast Guard will come by from time to time to do maintenance.
And since both properties are on the National Register of Historic Places, you would need various state and federal approvals to make changes, say, to add a rooftop party deck or a coat of hot-pink paint.
“Buying one would have to be about bragging rights. It’s almost like you’d have to try to find a collector of sorts,” said Sarah Delisle, a Realtor in Portland with Vitalius Real Estate Group. “You’d have to market it in a fun way. The big reason to buy it would be so they could say, ‘At one point in my life, I owned a lighthouse.’ ”
In this case, the marketing is being handled by the federal government. The online description of Halfway Rock Light Station begins with “Bid deposit required: $5,000.00,” followed by “Become a part of history – own a lighthouse!”
The General Services Administration is selling the lighthouses in an auction, and online bidding opened Wednesday. Rules for the bidding process are spelled out on the agency’s website.
The properties are being auctioned off because technology now allows the Coast Guard to operate the lights remotely. Daily access to each property isn’t needed, but access for periodic maintenance is, said Patrick Sclafani, spokesman for the General Services Administration. Plus, the historic structures are expensive to maintain and the sale will allow the Coast Guard to save money.
Since 2000, the General Services Administration has helped the government shed the expense of more than 100 lighthouses, with 68 transferred at no cost to preservation groups and 36 sold at auctions. About two years ago, the agency put out a call for preservation groups that might want to take ownership of the two Maine lighthouses, but that effort was unsuccessful, Sclafani said.
Now, private owners are being sought – owners with boats, preferably, since both lighthouses are more than five miles offshore.
Halfway Rock Light Station, built in 1871, features a 76-foot-tall tower, which once had keeper’s quarters, on two acres of ledge about 10 miles out. Boon Island Light Station was built in 1855 and features a 133-foot tower on a tiny island about 6 miles offshore.
“Those two lighthouses would be particularly challenging to buy because they’re both on rock outcroppings. An owner might be able to create living quarters inside, but the exterior has to be maintained,” said Earle G. Shettleworth Jr., state historian and head of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission. “Lighthouses are really iconic to Maine, so the way they look has a public benefit.”
A buyer, by the terms of sale, would have to guarantee the preservation. Bidders probably would be interested in historic preservation, if the three Maine lighthouses sold by the General Services Administration in the past decade or so are any indication.
Goose Rocks Light, off North Haven, was sold for $27,000 in 2006 to Beacon Preservation of Ansonia, Connecticut. Ram Island Ledge Light, off Portland, was sold in 2010 for $190,000 to Jeffrey Florman, a surgeon from Windham who said his main goal was preservation. And Moose Peak Light Station, off Jonesport, was sold for $95,000 in 2013 to Lighthouse Associates in Maine LLC of Glastonbury, Connecticut.
“It would make sense that someone interested in history and preservation would buy these,” said Delisle, the Realtor. “Plus, it would be really cool.”
To bid or to learn more about each lighthouse, go to: Propertydisposal.gsa.gov.
Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: