You can buy a lighthouse. What would you do with it?
You can buy a lighthouse. What would you do with it? The Boon Island Light Station sits in the Gulf of Maine about six miles off the coast of York, Maine. It is New England's tallest at 133-feet (AP photos)
You can buy a lighthouse. What would you do with it?
Lexile: 1170L

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Lighthouses for sale! Actually, lots of lighthouses for free.

Technological advances and a desire to purge unneeded properties have paved the way for the federal government to get rid of more than 100 lighthouses over the last 14 years. And it intends to keep selling and giving them away. The sold lighthouses, located on both coasts and in the Great Lakes states, have become everything from museums to bed-and-breakfasts.

Dave Waller, who purchased the Graves Island Light Station in the mouth of Boston Harbor for a record $933,888 last year, is retrofitting the turn-of-the-century lighthouse into a private home that can double as a vacation rental. He's trying to fashion a bedroom as far as possible from the foghorn. It's a challenging feat in a building with about 750 feet of livable space.

"It just seemed like a chance to have something a little more independent and on your own," Waller said.

Sixty-eight of the lighthouses have gone for free to preservationists while 36 others sold at public auction thanks to the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000, which allows the government to dispose of federally-owned lighthouses. The Coast Guard, which maintains lighthouses, has 71 other lighthouses ready up to go through the transfer process, and four are at auction now.

The Coast Guard owns 254 light houses, officials said. The question is more about which ones it will keep than which ones it will eventually sell, said Jeff Gales, executive director of the nonprofit U.S. Lighthouse Society.

"There is an end in sight," Gales said. "There's a limited number of lighthouses."

The federal General Services Administration, which sells the lighthouses, is the nearing the end of an online auction for the Halfway Rock Light Station off of Harpswell, Maine. The lighthouse is attracting interest, with a half dozen bidders and a high bid of more than $240,000. That's a good figure for a lighthouse that is only accessible by boat, Gales said.

Some of the lighthouses typically those that are easily accessed on land are transferred swiftly to historic preservation groups, while others that are off-shore or in need of heavy maintenance languish on the auction block with no interested bidders. Still others attract the eye of private investors, such as Boston's Waller.

The government also is currently auctioning lighthouses in Massachusetts, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Critical thinking challenge: How does the government benefit from selling the lighthouses, in both the short term and the long term?

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Assigned 23 times

  • ValerieF-Bri
    9/17/2014 - 03:50 p.m.

    I find it interesting that some were given for free to preservationists. It shows that, despite the opportunities to retrofit them into modern houses with a semi-steampunk twist, some still value the old styles present that have remained unchanged throughout history. It's interesting how two people might stare at the same thing but both see something entirely different from each other.

  • GrantW-2
    9/17/2014 - 10:09 p.m.

    This article is about the selling of lighthouses by the us government. The us is selling lighthouses to random people for a lot of money. Most of the lighthouses are gone but there are still some left. Ithink this article is interesting and now I want a lighthouse

  • yarelyo-Koc
    9/20/2014 - 10:33 p.m.

    Having a light house would be awesome ! I don't think much cold be done with a light house. It is a lot of money and that's why i believe everyone's selling them. If i could have one thought i would use it as somewhere to have a vacation spot to go out with friends and have fun.

  • HCassidy-Cas
    9/27/2014 - 11:10 p.m.

    I found this article about the US government, selling and giving away lighthouses interesting. As our society develops and has less of a reason to maintain and hold on to so many of their light houses, it is nice to see that we can make money by selling them and auctioning them off.

  • brandenwb4
    10/09/2014 - 01:59 p.m.

    i think it is good for the old light houses to have new purposes other then to root away for nothing and have all of the history behind it fall apart. it is amazing that people are getting a new use of them.

  • LoretoBarreraFall
    11/02/2014 - 02:40 p.m.

    Critical Thinking challenge:
    In my point of view the government of the USA gets many benefits from selling the lighthouses. The first is that they save money since it's very expensive to maintain such an enormous structure. Second, they are paid a lot of money in auctions and they spend a tiny amount of dollars promoting this auctions. They can only win, because nobody want to buy the lighthouse to destroy it but to look after the buildings and make them more beautiful.

  • TehyaWhite-Ste
    1/22/2015 - 01:11 p.m.

    If I had the money I would definitely buy a light house because I've always thought they were really cool. I'd renovate it and make it into something I could maybe even live in on the bottom. Then, I would make sure the light and everything still worked on the top. It would be a win win for everybody because the government would get my money and they'd have less shipwrecks with one more working lighthouse around and I would be happy finally owning what I think is one of the coolest things ever.

  • Thanksgiving24
    2/06/2015 - 09:53 a.m.

    If I could buy a lighthouse, I would use it as a restaurant for sailors. I would do this by using drones to fly food out to the men close to shore. If I couldn't do that, I would turn it in to a zip-line. The zip-line would carry you from the lighthouse to the shore.

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