Buying a Lake Erie Lighthouse in Cleveland

A government auction gave everyone a shot at owning the Cleveland Harbor West Pierhead Lighthouse

SEPT. 12 UPDATE: An intense auction between a total of nine bidders ended Sept. 6 with a high bid of $425,000. Read more about the Clevelanders who won the auction — and what they plan to do with it — right here.

Now’s your chance to own a lighthouse on Lake Erie.

The U.S. government's General Services Administration has announced plans to offload 10 lighthouses, including two located in Lake Erie.

Bidding will open on June 30 at 11 a.m. EST for the Cleveland Harbor West Pierhead Light, which has a 50-foot conical tower and keeper’s quarters at the entrance to Cleveland’s harbor. It’s only accessible by boat, but it has stellar views of the city. Bidding will start at $25,000 and increase by $1,000 increments.

It may sound like a good deal, but other lighthouse owners say that whoever takes over will have their work cut out for them.

“It always takes longer and costs more whenever you’re renovating a historic property,” says Sheila Consaul, who bought the Fairport Harbor West Lighthouse in eastern Ohio at auction in 2011, and turned it into a summer vacation home. “Being off the grid makes it more difficult to get equipment and vendors to the lighthouse because access is difficult.”

Daryl Jamieson, owner of the Detroit River Lighthouse agrees with Consaul, but adds that owning a lighthouse is a rewarding experience. “Just go for it!”

The GSA has been transferring ownership of lighthouses since 2000 when the U.S Congress passed the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act. Since that time, around 150 lighthouses have been transferred for free or sold at auction, raising more than $10 million.

In addition to the lighthouses being sold at auction, six of the lighthouses, including the Erie Harbor North Pier Lighthouse in Pennsylvania are being offered at no cost to government agencies, nonprofits, educational organizations or other entities that intend to maintain and preserve them, and make them publicly available for educational, recreational or cultural purposes.

Presque Isle LIghthouse, Inc, which currently manages the Presque Isle Lighthouse and the Erie Land Lighthouse on Presque Isle, is one of two entities that have entered a letter of intent to take over the Erie Harbor North Pier Lighthouse. Executive director Averie Shaughnessy-Comfort says the organization has until July 12 to put in an application for ownership.

“I’m writing it as we speak,” she says. “We should know in September if we get it,” she says. “It’s nerve-wracking knowing there is a second party applying, but we are well situated to be the steward of the light and preserve it for future generations.”

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Issue: 2023 May/June