The missing Fresnel lens was installed in 1897 at the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse and served as a beacon for mariners coming into Portland Harbor.

DETROIT — A federal judge has ruled in favor of the government in a dispute over ownership of two antique lighthouse lenses – including one in Maine – worth at least $600,000.

The decision means Steve Gronow of Howell, Michigan, must surrender the lenses. He calls it a “huge disappointment.”

The government sued Gronow, saying he had no right to lenses from the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse in South Portland, Maine, and the Belle Isle lighthouse in Detroit.

The Fresnel lens from the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse. Its design – originally developed by French physicist Augustin-Jean Fresnel – allows the lense to capture more  light from a light source, thus allowing the light from a lighthouse equipped with one to be visible over greater distances. The first one was put into service in France in 1823.

The Coast Guard says it’s still the owner of the lenses. The Maine lighthouse was automated around 1960, and the Detroit lighthouse was replaced in 1930. Gronow bought one lens from an eBay seller and the other from the Henry County Historical Society in Indiana.

U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith said Monday that the government never gave up ownership, even if the lenses changed hands over the years.

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