Lighthouse going, going ... still here

Government extends auction of Bloody Point Bar

buyer must pay cash at closing

December 01, 2006|By Rona Kobell | Rona Kobell,Sun reporter

The federal government has extended the bidding deadline for the Bloody Point Bar Lighthouse, a century-old fixer-upper off the Kent Island coast that was expected to be sold this week.

The online auction for the lighthouse was to end at 2 p.m. yesterday, but the General Services Administration, which is selling the cast-iron structure, moved the deadline back a day when a bid came in at 1:56 p.m. Within five minutes, two more bids came in, pushing the cost for the lighthouse up to $75,000.

If no one submits a higher offer, then $75,000 will buy the lighthouse by 2 p.m. today. But if other auctions are any guide, the bidding could go well into next week.

Under a federal law passed in 2000, the U.S. Coast Guard has been trying to unload lighthouses - iconic beacons that have become expensive to maintain and less crucial to boaters in the age of global positioning systems. The GSA first offers the lighthouses at no cost to nonprofit organizations and local governments that can restore the structures and open them to the public.

If those entities pass, the GSA opens up the bidding to the public. The Chesapeake Bay has 30 lighthouses, about 15 of which have been transferred or sold. In all sales, the buyer has to pay cash at closing.

In June, a bidder paid $260,000 for the Baltimore Harbor Lighthouse, which sits in the Magothy River and was the last lighthouse built on the Chesapeake Bay. A day later, the Sandy Point Shoal Lighthouse, a red brick dwelling that sits near the park for which it is named, went for $250,000.

But both of those lighthouses are in better shape than Bloody Point Bar. A 1960 fire gutted the inside, and the tower no longer has its roof stovepipe or its lower gallery.

Bloody Point Bar's new owner will have to figure out how to reach the lighthouse, which is about a mile off shore. It can't be moved, and privacy will not be guaranteed - the federal government reserves the right to enter anytime to repair, relocate or operate any aids to navigation.

"We've had people say they're going to make bed and breakfasts out of them, which I don't think they ever have," said GSA spokesman Gary Mote. "Most of those lighthouses are treacherous to get to."

Henry Gonzalez, president of the Chesapeake chapter of the U.S. Lighthouse Society, said lighthouse buyers are often looking for a family retreat. They've been bitten by the "lighthouse bug," drawn to the uniqueness of the beacons and the romantic life of solitude on the water.

But, he said, the winning bidder should realize that the initial cash payment is just the beginning. Gonzalez's group is helping to restore the Thomas Point Lighthouse, an effort that will take at least four years and cost about $500,000.

rona.kobell@baltsun.com

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