The federal government is auctioning off three lighthouses in Connecticut this summer, so your dream of living that nautical life on a private island, without running water, is within grasp.
The U.S. General Services Administration says it's looking for new owners as part of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act (NHLPA) program—"Through this innovative program, proceeds from the public sales go back into the USCG’s aid to navigation fund, a fund that pays for the equipment, maintenance, and resources (fog horns, lights, battery cells, solar panels, etc.) to continue preservation and maintenance of lighthouses that are still active." Here's what's about to hit the block:
- Greens Ledge Light. Constructed in 1901, the lighthouse is located on Long Island Sound near Norwalk Connecticut. This spark plug style offshore light consists of a 39-foot circular foundation pier; four-story circular former keeper’s dwelling with a circular parapet and lantern. It is an active navigational aid operated by the United States Coast Guard (USCG). This light is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Southwest Ledge Light. Built in 1876, this light is situated offshore, at the east side of the entrance to New Haven Harbor in Connecticut. It is a 45-foot, eight-sided cast iron structure with a unique two story mansard roof detailed in Second Empire style. The light will remain an active aid to navigation after the sale. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Penfield Reef Light. Located off the coast of Fairfield in western Long Island Sound at the south side of the entrance to Black Rock Harbor in Connecticut. The light, built in 1874, is a 51-foot, octagonal wood and granite structure, with a black lantern and two-floor keeper’s quarters within. This lighthouse was greatly damaged during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Since then, the USCG has worked diligently to restore it so it can be sold at auction. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
About that Penfield Reef Lighthouse... It might be haunted! But everyone knows ghosts can't swim, so your escape will be easy.
So far, there are three bids on Southwest Ledge ($50,000 is the top one); two on Greens Ledge ($25,000); and two on the Haunted Penfield Reef ($210,000!). Despite possibly being haunted, Penfield Reef is in good shape having undergone many repairs after being damaged during Hurricane Sandy—here's 2015 drone footage during the renovation:
That said, all of these lighthouses are definitely in need of some TLC (or Chip and Joanna Gaines). And you'll want to do your research—a 2013 Connecticut Post article detailed some of the challenges of the bidding process, and owning a lighthouse:
Officials note that any potential owner would have to comply with the The National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000, which states that in addition to maintaining the light, it "must make the station available for education, park, recreation, cultural or historic preservation purposes for the general public at reasonable times and under reasonable conditions."
So, if you want to buy a lighthouse and turn it into your own private hide-away, forget it.
Even with deep pockets, buying a lighthouse from the GSA is a challenge.
There are two steps in the GSA's lighthouse unloading process. First, the GSA attempts offer the lighthouse to the state or a non-profit historic preservation group. This is what's happening with the New London Ledge Light. If there are no takers that meet GSA requirements, the property is auctioned to the highest bidder, as is the case with the Saybrook and Penfield lights.
Buyers typically have to comply with a raft of terms and conditions; the Penfield light, for example, comes with 25 pages of requirements that a new owner has to comply with, including allowing the Coast Guard "unrestricted access" to repair and maintain the light.
Further, there's no plumbing, so you need to bring in potable water, not to mention figuring out what to do for a toilet. But, hey, if you're a NYC developer who already owns Katharine Hepburn's estate, you can probably figure out ways to make it work.