It’s a real estate opportunity that doesn’t come around too often: the chance to own a historic Chesapeake Bay lighthouse.
That opportunity is on the table right now, as the federal government attempts to auction off Hooper Island Light, marking the shoals 3-4 miles west of Hooperville on upper Hooper Island.
The lighthouse, first lit in 1902, is the only cast-iron caisson lighthouse in Maryland with a watch room and lantern surmounted on the tower, according to the U.S. Lighthouse Society (USLHS) Chesapeake Chapter. It is exactly halfway down the Chesapeake Bay.
One of only five lights constructed in the Bay during the 1900s, Hooper Island Light had a fourth-order Fresnel lens built in Paris in 1888. That was changed to a fixed white that flashed every 15 seconds in 1904, controlled by a lightkeeper until 1961 when it was automated and the keepers removed. Sadly, the fourth-order Fresnel lens was stolen in 1976 and the Coast Guard replaced with a solar optic.
The lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002 and declared “excess property” by the federal government in 2006.
Now, a U.S. General Services Administration online auction is open with an opening bid of $15,000. It has no bids so far.
What will the new owner of Hooper Island light get? Vertical-style living and plenty of privacy.
The four-story tower rises about 63 feet above the waterline. The first level is the kitchen. The second, a bedroom. The third level served as an office and the top floor was a living space for the keepers. The living spaces are “lined with white glazed bricks,” according to USLHS. There is also a watch room level and lantern level.
The lighthouse boasts a deep water “slip” as it sits in about 18 feet of water.
There is some fine print to the purchase of the lighthouse. The buyer gets the structure, but the underlying submerged land does not convey in the sale—it remains with the U.S. government per a cession deed from 1924.
The Coast Guard will continue to operate and maintain the automated light as an Aid to Navigation. The owner must adhere to historic preservation covenants. And finally, the buyer must come to an agreement with the U.S. Navy. Hooper Island Light is located within a Navy-controlled surface danger area. So the buyer must enter into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Navy stipulating when access to the lighthouse is allowed for safety reasons.
If your curiosity is piqued and you’d like to go see the property, you must do it from a safe distance. “Tying off to, climbing, anchoring to or trespassing on the property is strictly prohibited due to safety concerns,” the online auction states.
Bidding is open from now until Sept. 21, 2022. To find out more about the lighthouse auction and seeing the property, contact GSA’s Tod J. Taylor:
-Meg Walburn Viviano