Moose Peak lighthouse going on the auction block

Posted Jan. 21, 2012, at 12:10 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 21, 2012, at 1:30 p.m.
Moose Peak Light on Mistake Island
Moose Peak Light on Mistake Island
Larry Finnegan, chairman of Keepers of Moose Peak Light
Tom Walsh | BDN
Larry Finnegan, chairman of Keepers of Moose Peak Light Buy Photo

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JONESPORT, Maine — The Moose Peak lighthouse and four acres that surround it on Mistake Island southeast of Jonesport will be sold this spring to the highest bidder by the federal government.

The federal General Services Administration will take bids on the working lighthouse, which in its many forms has been serving as a navigational aid for seafarers since 1827. The existing 57-foot brick tower was built in 1851 and is now automated with a solar-powered light and fog horn.

A nonprofit group called Keepers of Moose Peak Light had been working since the fall of 2010 to acquire the property after it was put on the “surplus” list by the U.S. Coast Guard. After a complicated and protracted application process, the group learned this week that its application to have the lighthouse deeded to the nonprofit has been denied by the National Park Service.

“Apparently they wanted us to have $50,000 to $100,000 in hand,” said Larry Finnegan of Jonesport, the group’s chairman. “We are not able to raise that kind of money without first knowing if we are going to take ownership.”

Finnegan said his group solicited an estimate on repairing cracks in the tower and cleaning and repainting both the tower’s interior and exterior facades. That work was expected to cost $207,000. Finnegan said the lighthouse has had virtually no maintenance during the past 20 years.

The lighthouse is sited on a rocky point west of the narrow entrance to Mistake Harbor, a well-sheltered and seasonally popular overnight anchorage for sailboats cruising the Down East coastline. The island is accessible only by sea or by helicopter. The 23 acres that surround the lighthouse are leased from the U.S. Coast Guard by The Nature Conservancy, which maintains it as a board-walked nature preserve that in summer is thick with raspberries, blackberries and blueberries.

The original, second order Fresnel optical lens that was installed in 1856 was replaced with a modern lens in 1993. The original lens is on display at a U.S. Coast Guard exhibit center in Maryland. A light keeper’s house built in 1903 was dismantled in 1982 during a Green Beret training exercise that involved explosives.

Finnegan said the federal government tried to sell the lighthouse to a private interest in the 1990s, but that deal fell through when it was determined that Mistake Island’s granite ledge would not accommodate a septic system.

Additional information about the General Services Administration’s plans to sell the lighthouse is available through meta.cushing@gsa.gov.

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