Feeling Adventurous? The U.S. Government Is Giving Away Lighthouses

Nobska Lighthouse in Falmouth, Mass.
Nobska Lighthouse in Falmouth, Mass. / John Greim/GettyImages

For centuries, lighthouses and their keepers helped ships avoid catastrophe. Thanks to GPS, they’re all but obsolete. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t live in one of these cherished structures and enjoy a hermetic existence with a great waterfront view: the U.S. government is giving away several lighthouses and selling others.

The Associated Press reports that lighthouses in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, Pennsylvania, and other states are being auctioned off by the General Services Administration (GSA), which aims to put the structures in the hands of individuals or nonprofit entities that can preserve them. The program is a result of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000. Held annually, the 2023 edition is offering a record 10 lighthouses—six for free, and four for public auction.

The six at no cost are: Lynde Point Lighthouse in Old Saybrook, Connecticut; Little Mark Island and Monument in Harpswell, Maine; Nobska Lighthouse in Falmouth (Woods Hole), Massachusetts; Erie Harbor North Pier Lighthouse in Erie, Pennsylvania; Plymouth/Gurnet Lighthouse in Plymouth, Massachusetts; and Warwick Neck Light in Warwick, Rhode Island.

To qualify for a lighthouse at no cost, the receiving entity must be a federal, state, or local government agency or a nonprofit or educational organization. The recipient must be able to endure the cost of maintenance and open the lighthouse to the public for educational or recreational purposes.

For individuals who simply want to privately own a lighthouse, the GSA is offering four: Penfield Reef Lighthouse in Fairfield, Connecticut; Keweenaw Waterway Lower Entrance Light in Chassell, Michigan; Stratford Shoal Light in East Setauket, New York; and Cleveland Harbor West Pierhead Light in Cleveland, Ohio.

Size can vary. Keweenaw Waterway, for example, stands 68 feet tall, with an interior space of 1000 square feet. Penfield Reef is 51 feet tall with 1568 square feet.

According to the GSA, previous lighthouse sales have ranged from $10,000 to nearly $1 million. Roughly 70 lighthouses have been sold to the public since 2000. While past buyers have sometimes converted them to private residences, prospective buyers shouldn’t get too deeply invested in any romanticized notions. Virtually all require some kind of restoration, from painting to more extensive remodeling, and most do not have utilities. As you’d expect, getting insurance can also be costly.

The auctions begin in June.