The picturesque New England state is offering interested buyers a rare chance to own a historic lighthouse off the Maine coast, set on its own tiny private island.
If remoteness is what you’re after, it’s hard to beat the unique property being sold by the State of Maine this month – a small speck of an island six miles out into the chilly Atlantic, complete with its very own lighthouse. Found off the southern coast of the state, the nearest sign of civilization is the hamlet of Cape Neddick, home to just a few thousand people. It was recently announced by the government that the still-functioning automated lighthouse, the tallest in New England, is being made available for sale, as its current owner, the U.S. Coast Guard, has no interest in maintaining the historic property.
Measuring just 300 by 700 feet, Boon Island’s tiny size belies its rich – and perhaps sometimes disturbing – history. A lighthouse was first established on the island during the War of 1812, but a little further into the past, this desolate scrap of land was the site of a famous 1710 shipwreck that stranded the crew of the Nottingham Galley. A well-known part of Maine lore, the crew of the ship resorted to cannibalism to survive during their desperate fight for survival on the island. The men were only discovered after the body of their fallen crew member washed ashore, and led locals to send out a boat to investigate.
Despite this chilling tale, after the establishment of the first incarnation of the lighthouse in 1811, it maintained a permanent population; a succession of hardy lighthouse keepers, all the way up until the mid-1970’s. As a granite island with virtually no vegetation, all of the keepers were heavily dependent on being able to access mainland supplies. Unfortunately, this meant that during Maine’s bouts of notoriously inclement weather, the keepers could be stranded for weeks without food or other essentials.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard website, this actually happened:
“One story is told of how the keepers were once marooned on the island for several weeks because of storms and rough weather. Their food supplies were low and starvation seemed to be staring them in the face. Just at the point of desperation a boat appeared and they signaled for help. The keeper’s message in a bottle was picked up by the passing schooner which hove to and anchored until the sea went down. Then the crew packed some food in a mackerel barrel and set it afloat.”
As dangerous as life on Boon Island may have been in bygone years, the lighthouse island is a true piece of Maine history, and the government is hopeful to see some interest in its purchase. The submission date for letters of interest for Boon Island and its lighthouse has been set for July 16th, and while bids for the property are currently only being accepted from non-profit or governmental agencies, bidding will open to the public if a deal can’t be struck. As of yet, there have been no clear signs of an NGO purchaser for the 200-year old lighthouse – if you’re a brave survivalist seeking the ultimate in New England solitude, your chance may just be coming soon.
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