“Fixer Upper For Sale. Access Tricky. Nice Views. Cash Only.”
That was the headline in the morning Globe the other day. Graves Island Lighthouse near the entrance to Boston Harbor is for sale. According to the terms of the National Lighthouse Preservation Act which went into effect in 2000, lighthouses no longer wanted or needed by the federal government are first offered to historic societies, towns and states for free. The onus of stewardship then rests with them. When there's no interest on those fronts, the lighthouses are then offered at auction to the highest bidder. The bid when I last checked was standing at $111,000, but the auction will be closing soon.
In actuality, Graves Island Lighthouse isn't one of those romantic-looking lighthouses that you fantasize about. It was built in 1903 of granite and placed on Graves Ledges as a navigational aid to large ships entering Boston Harbor. It has a moderately interesting, albeit short history. A British ship containing zoo animals shipwrecked nearby once. They saved three bears and lost a bunch of snakes. That must have been interesting. The ordeals of the lighthouse keepers during severe storms are annotated in lighthouse history books. It was a hard life at Graves Island Light. The kitchen and library described sound comfy, but the foghorn sounding might be a deterrent to peace on occasion.
Ever thought about living in a lighthouse? Closer to shore or on shore, I think it would be awesome. This lighthouse is nine miles offshore and sits on a rocky ledge. There's a 30-foot vertical ladder climb to get to the front door. There's no indoor plumbing or electricity. The Coast Guard maintains the actual light and fog horn as a navigational aid, but the rest is up to the new owner. I think this might be an expensive do-over.
As romantic as it sounds, owning and maintaining a lighthouse has its own unique set of issues beyond the usual “house maintenance” kind of stuff. There's the question of the paint used on old lighthouses (lead or asbestos?) and who owns the land the lighthouse has been placed on. Then, since many lighthouses are registered historical sites, a whole new set of rules applies as to what you can and cannot do. How do you get a repairman out there for estimates? It sounds like a nightmare instead of a fairytale-come-true.
Selling off lighthouses isn't just a USA activity. I've read articles about lighthouse sales in the UK and France. It seems with the advent and advances in radio, radar, GPS and satellite navigation, many lighthouses have become obsolete. They're expensive to maintain, but because they're such an important part of maritime history, governments are trying to sell them to caretakers rather than demolish them.
Despite all this, the idea still has appeal. The solace and peace of the ocean. A 360º ocean view would be wonderful. Wait … we live on a boat. We do have a 360º view and it's doesn't even have to be the same view or the same ocean all the time. Never mind, we'll stick to sailing.