It’s a surprise ending for the public auction of a 120-year-old Chesapeake Bay lighthouse.
When Bay Bulletin reported on the auction in late August, it had already been open for bids for more than two weeks. But after weeks of no activity, the online auction ended in a bidding war, closing on Sept. 23 at $192,000.
There had been 15 bids from five different bidders when it was all over, according to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) auction page. GSA says media reporting on the lighthouse “helped tremendously” with bringing awareness to the auction.
What will the proud new owner do with the lighthouse? Since GSA doesn’t disclose buyer information, we can only guess. GSA Mid-Atlantic spokesman Will Powell does say it was an individual who made the top bid.
Whatever the winning bidder’s plans for it, Hooper Island Lighthouse comes with strings attached. The owner will have to adhere to historic preservation covenants, allow the U.S. Coast Guard access to continue its operation and maintenance of the Aid to Navigation on the lighthouse and execute a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the United States Navy.
As stated in the GSA online auction listing, “The lighthouse is located within a Navy controlled surface danger area. For safety purposes, the successful bidder will be required to enter into an MOA that stipulates when access to the lighthouse is allowed.”
Given its historical significance, the lighthouse’s buyer will serve as steward of the 1902 structure. It’s 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. Marking the shoals 3-4 miles west of Hooperville on upper Hooper Island, the lighthouse is exactly halfway down the Chesapeake Bay.
The structure of the four-story lighthouse is the only thing conveyed in the sale. The underlying submerged land will remain in the ownership of the U.S. Government, GSA says, as conveyed by State of Maryland by cession deed dated April 21, 1924.
The buyer has 45 days from the date of sale to close on the auction.
A lighthouse selling at auction isn’t unheard of on the Chesapeake Bay—back in 2017 Bay Bulletin reported that GSA was selling Craighill Channel Lower Range Front Light Station. Powell says that lighthouse, 144 years old, sold for $92,000. It reportedly had birds living in it at the time.
-Meg Walburn Viviano