JONESPORT, Maine — The long-abandoned Moose Peak Lighthouse that sits offshore from the Washington County community of Jonesport has been sold by the federal General Services Administration for $93,500, the highest bid in a recent public auction.
Donald J. Vaccaro of South Glastonbury, Conn., was the successful bidder, one of eight bidders who were each required to put up a $10,000 deposit to participate. Bidding opened Nov. 1, 2012, and closed Nov. 27.
When Vaccaro takes possession of the 57-foot brick tower, the deed will include historic preservation covenants, according to a GSA official involved in the sale.
The property on Mistake Island that Vaccaro purchased includes the lighthouse and the four acres that surround it. Built in 1851 and now automated with a solar-powered light and a deafening foghorn, 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’s four-acre footprint 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. That lease is unaffected by the sale.
What Vaccaro intends to do with the property remains unclear. Efforts to contact him Thursday were not successful.
“I’ve heard a couple of different stories,” said Larry Finnegan of Jonesport, chairman of Keepers of Moose Peak Light, a local nonprofit group that tried unsuccessfully to acquire the site after it was put on the “surplus” list by the U.S. Coast. “One story says he’ll build a house, another that he’ll turn around and give the lighthouse to [our group]. I don’t know what the plan is. I didn’t think they would get any bidders.”
The Keepers organization learned a year ago that its application to have the lighthouse deeded to the nonprofit had been denied by the National Park Service because the group didn’t have a nest egg of restoration funding already in hand. A restoration estimate commissioned by the group showed repairing cracks in the tower and cleaning and repainting both the tower’s interior and exterior facades would cost $207,000.
“If we did get it, we’d have to do some fairly extensive fundraising,” Finnegan said. “The repair bill is over $200,000. Some of our people are relieved that we didn’t get it, just to avoid all the fundraising that would be required.”
Building a house on the four-acre parcel could prove problematic. 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.
The GSA official involved in the Moose Peak Lighthouse sale said Thursday GSA will be offering 10 more lighthouses for sale in 2013, offshore structures in the Great Lakes and off the coastlines of Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York.