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Government to Auction Aging Lighthouses to Preservationists

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Rather than continuing to maintain some remote and antiquated lighthouses, the federal government is hoping to leave that responsibility to a few brave souls willing to purchase and refurbish the property. The National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000 requires buyers to demonstrate that they are maintaining the properties, however remote they may be. Still, the prospect of purchasing an historic private island for pennies on the dollar is sure to entice some buyers this summer. Take the Graves Island Light Station, a Boston Harbor landmark since 1903, with bidding slated to open on June 10th, with a $25K starting bid. That sounds pretty reasonable considering the included 10-acre ledge (at low tide, of course), the 113-foot stone tower, and a precariously placed oil house.

? Located near the tip of Long Island's North Fork, the Orient Point Lighthouse sits between the point and Plum Island, another government-owned property that may soon be up for sale. Bidding starts at just $10K on June 10th, but the high bidder will have to spend thousands to shore up the structure, the base of which is frequently submerged in seawater. At least there's an established docking facility for boats, something oddly not always included in these lighthouse sales.

· Some of the maritime signals aren't lighthouses at all, but fog horn stations, like the Manana Island Sound Signal Station, adjacent to the artsy Maine island of Monhegan. Painted regularly over the years from afar, the Signal Station has been slowly rotting away and is in dire need of refurbishment. The Manana Island station will be available for inspection on June 10th and the current bid is up to $154K. According to the listing, the "wood walkways and the boat ramp/dock and right of way are included," but that seems to indicate that the sizable island is not part of the offering.

? The Saybrook Breakwater Light offers both convenient access and, currently anyway, a low price of $1. Completed in 1886, the 48-foot lighthouse is located at the end of an Army Corps of Engineers breakwater—but, according to the listing, is only accessible by water. Still a crucial navigational aid, the lighthouse will remain in service after the sale.

? A similarly historic light, this one without the convenient breakwater, or—for that matter—any sort of dock beyond a rusty ladder is listed with an opening bid of $25K. The Butler Flats Light does have a wide covered deck that wraps the lower section of the structure and another outdoor space up by the light itself, plus more than 1,000 square feet of usable space. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the lighthouse sits just off the coast of New Bedford, Mass.

· Graves Island Light Station [GSA Auctions]
· Orient Point Lighthouse [GSA Auctions]
· Manana Island Sound Signal Station [GSA Auctions]
· Saybrook Breakwater Light [GSA Auctions]
· Butler Flats Light [GSA Auctions]