A state-owned lighthouse island in the US state of Maine is currently on sale via online auction, forming part of a nationwide federal government program to cut costs and raise revenue.
Boon Island, an uninhabited lighthouse island off the coast of Maine, is the latest in a long line of unusual American lighthouse properties to go under the hammer, forming part of a nationwide program aimed at cutting costs and raising much needed revenue for the US federal government.
Listed alongside Halfway Rock Light Station (Harpswell), Boon Island was brought to auction by the Government Services Administration Department (GSA) after the Board of Selectmen in nearby York turned down the opportunity to add another lighthouse island to their community portfolio.
Constructed in the aftermath of a huge shipwreck, the Boon Island lighthouse was constructed in 1855. Its 133 foot tapered granite tower makes it the tallest lighthouse in New England. As well as forming home to the lighthouse itself (fully automated since 1978), the island also lays claim to the ruins of the former keeper’s house, an old boathouse and a concrete helipad which is occasionally used by the US coastguard.
Listed within the National Register of Historic Places, the Boon Island Lighthouse also boasts a series of historic covenants, which, as Earle G. Shettleworth of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission explains, could – along with the island’s remote location – pose problems for any potential property developers.
As well as limitations regarding the island’s functional capacity (as per the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, the lighthouse must remain operative at all times), any large-scale changes in appearance are also out of the question, as Shettleworth explains: “An owner might be able to create living quarters inside, but the exterior has to be maintained. Lighthouses are iconic to Maine. The way they look has to have a public benefit.”
Nevertheless, the island has already attracted interest, with the bidding starting with an optimistic USD 5,000 offer placed by an anonymous bidder 2 weeks ago on May 27th. Whilst the bid only just about succeeded in covering the island’s temptingly low reserve price, historical precedent suggests that the best is yet to come in terms of the island’s final price.
Since the formation of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act in 2000, the US federal government has transferred the owner ship of over 100 lighthouse properties. Of these properties, 68 were taken over at no cost by local governments, with 36 were sold at auction to conservation groups and private individuals interested in maintaining the lighthouse tradition.
Some of the most recent auctions include the sale of Goose Rocks Light, which was sold for USD 27,000 in 2006 to Beacon Preservation of Ansonia, Connecticut; Mosse Peak Light Station in Jonesport, which was sold in 2013 for USD 95,000 to the Lighthouse Associates of Maine LLC and Ram Island Ledge Light, which was sold in 2010 for USD 190,000 to Jeffrey Florman, a surgeon from Windham who said his main goal was preservation.
Whether a conservation group or a private steward is behind the USD 5,000 bid for Boon Island remains to be seen – we promise to bring you the latest developments as they arise.
The bidding for Boon Island has begun – head over to GSA Auctions to make your offer. A deadline for the auction has not yet been decided. Private Island News will keep you posted.