Plenty of light! Feds are selling off lighthouses

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Feds are selling off lighthouses
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Plenty of light! Feds are selling off lighthouses
CAPE ELIZABETH, ME - AUGUST 11: Jose Navarro, left, and Alejandro Posada, both visiting Maine from Medellin, Columbia, take photos of Portland HeadLight, reportedly the most photographed lighthouse in America at Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth. Ram Island is in the background in Casco Bay waters. (Photo by Gordon Chibroski/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
In this undated photo released by the U.S. General Services Administration, Boon Island Light Station sits in the Gulf of Maine about six miles off the coast of York, Maine. The lighthouse, New England's tallest at 133-feet, is up for auction until the deadline Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/U.S. General Services Administration, Jeremy D'Entremont)
The sun rises behind the Fire Island Lighthouse on Tuesday, July 22, 2014, in Fire Island, N.Y. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)
Gay Head Light flashes a red signal in Aquinnah, MA, Oct. 13, 2013 on the island of Martha's Vineyard. The lighthouse flashes alternating red and white beams of light. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Gay Head Light flashes a red signal in Aquinnah, MA, Oct. 13, 2013 on the island of Martha's Vineyard. The lighthouse flashes alternating red and white beams of light. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
The Cape Florida lighthouse is shown at sunset at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, Monday, Aug. 20, 2012, in Key Biscayne, Fla. The original lighthouse was built in 1825 and was later attacked by Seminole Indians. It was rebuilt in 1855. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
The Linoma lighthouse stands along highway 6 near Ashland, in Ashland, Neb., Monday, Sept. 16, 2013. Several investors are determined to save and relight the lighthouse that has served as a landmark for travelers since 1939. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
In this Tuesday, July 31, 2012 photo, Charleston Light, the last major lighthouse built in the United States, is seen on Sullivans Island, S.C. The National Park Service is considering alternatives in a draft management plan to refurbish the lighthouse and provide public access. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
FILE - This April 30, 2013 file photo shows people fishing near the Barnegat Lighthouse on Long Beach Island, N.J. The Jersey shore is full of spots to drop a baited line or a wire trap over the side of a bulkhead, and come up with a bucket full of tasty blue claw crabs. They’re biting now and will be through the end of September. And the beaches and jetties are prime surf-fishing spots after the lifeguards pack up and leave in the evenings. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)
Two fishermen in a bass boat speed past the harbor lighthouse in Cleveland Wednesday, May 23, 2012. Warmer weather and light winds prompted fishermen and sailing enthusiasts to head out on Lake Erie for the afternoon. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
VINEYARD HAVEN, TISBURY, MASSACHUSETTS, UNITED STATES - 2013/10/22: West Chop Lighthouse. (Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)
MARTHA'S VINEYARD, EDGARTOWN, MASSACHUSETTS, UNITED STATES - 2013/10/21: Edgartown Lighthouse. (Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)
CAPE COD, TRURO, MASSACHUSETTS, UNITED STATES - 2013/09/06: Rustic, weathered Highland Lighthouse. (Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)
CAPE COD, EASTHAM, MASSACHUSETTS, UNITED STATES - 2013/09/04: Nauset Lighthouse in overcast weather. (Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)
OWLS HEAD, MAINE, UNITED STATES - 2012/10/11: Owls Head Lighthouse. (Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)
PORT CLYDE, MAINE, UNITED STATES - 2012/10/11: Marshall Point Lighthouse. (Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)
MARTHA'S VINEYARD, OAK BLUFFS, MASSACHUSETTS, UNITED STATES - 2012/09/25: Lighthouse window, East Chop Light. (Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)
OUTER BANKS, CAPE HATTERAS, NORTH CAROLINA, UNITED STATES - 2011/08/20: Cape Hatteras lighthouse. (Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)
ASSATEAGUE ISLAND, VIRGINIA, UNITED STATES - 2011/08/18: Assateague Lighthouse. (Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)

YORK, Maine (AP) - Lighthouses for sale! Actually, lots of lighthouses for free.

Technological advances and a desire to purge unneeded properties have paved the way for the federal government to get rid of more than 100 lighthouses over the last 14 years, and it intends to keep selling and giving them away. The sold lighthouses, located on both coasts and in the Great Lakes states, have become everything from museums to bed-and-breakfasts.

Dave Waller, who purchased the Graves Island Light Station in the mouth of Boston Harbor for a record $933,888 last year, is retrofitting the turn-of-the-century lighthouse into a private home that can double as a vacation rental. He's trying to fashion a bedroom as far as possible from the foghorn - a challenging feat in a building with about 750 feet of livable space.

"It just seemed like a chance to have something a little more independent and on your own," Waller said.

Sixty-eight of the lighthouses have gone for free to preservationists while 36 others sold at public auction thanks to the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000, which allows the government to dispose of federally-owned lighthouses. The act turns 14 next month. The Coast Guard, which maintains lighthouses, has 71 other lighthouses queued up to go through the transfer process, and four are at auction now.

The Coast Guard owns 254 light houses, officials said. The question is more about which ones it will keep than which ones it will eventually sell, said Jeff Gales, executive director of the non-profit U.S. Lighthouse Society.

"There is an end in sight," Gales said. "There's a limited number of lighthouses."

The federal General Services Administration, which sells the lighthouses, does not have a target number of how many lighthouses it would like to sell and give away, but the Coast Guard is always looking to shed excess lighthouses that "are often no longer critical" to the guard's work, said Patrick Sclafani, a spokesman for the agency. Buyers and preservationists typically allow the Coast Guard access to the lighthouses so it can maintain the lights, all of which are automated.

The administration is the nearing the end of an online auction for the Halfway Rock Light Station off of Harpswell, Maine. The lighthouse is attracting interest, with a half dozen bidders and a high bid of more than $240,000. That's a good figure for a lighthouse that is only accessible by boat, a feature that frequently drives bidders away, Gales said.

Some of the lighthouses - typically those that are easily accessed on land - are transferred swiftly to historic preservation groups, while others that are off-shore or in need of heavy maintenance languish on the auction block with no interested bidders. Still others attract the eye of private investors, such as Boston's Waller.

Officials say the GSA's Boston office has been responsible for about 80 percent of lighthouse conveyances and those transfers have netted $3.35 million for the Coast Guard.

That office closed out an auction of New England's tallest lighthouse, the Boon Island Light Station off of York, Maine, in August with a top bid of $78,000 out of 12 bidders. Winning bidder Art Girard of Portland, Maine, will inherit the 133-foot lighthouse and a challenge: it is located on an isolated, rocky island six miles off the Maine coast, barely salient from Cape Neddick in York.

The government also is currently auctioning lighthouses in Massachusetts, Michigan and Wisconsin.

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