2 of 4 auctioned Lake Michigan lighthouses find buyers

John L. Russell
Special to the Detroit News

Leland — Two of the four Michigan lighthouses the federal government put up for auction this summer have tentative new owners.

The White Shoal Light sold for the most, at $110,009. The winning bid by an undisclosed buyer for the structure west of the Mackinac Bridge that was built in 1901 was confirmed Sept. 25.

The North Manitou Shoal Light had four bidders and the winning amount of $73,000 was declared Tuesday. An unnamed Michigan non-profit group will restore the structure, built in 1935 southeast of North Manitou Island and eight miles offshore from Leland, according to the General Services Administration.

A Shepler's Mackinac Island Ferry lighthouse cruise visits the White Shoal Lighthouse in upper Lake Michigan Wednesday, Aug 17, 2016.

Information on the buyers won’t be available until the titles are transferred to the new owners, GSA officials said.

Two other lighthouse sales were not as successful. The Minneapolis Shoal light at the entrance to Little Bay de Noc in Delta County has two bidders at $30,000 with a closing date to be announced soon on realestatesales.gov. It was built in 1934. The Grays Reef Light four miles west of Waugoshance Island has one bid of $10,000 with a soft closing date of 2 p.m. Oct. 7. It was built in 1936.

Once the sales are completed, the owners must also get a private use agreement from the State of Michigan, which owns the bottomland on which the houses are built, said Tom Graf, water resources division of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. An agreement could take up to six months for approval. The 99-year lease has no annual fee.

Owners must also agree to allow maintenance of the light operation by the U.S. Coast Guard.

North Manitou lighthouse.

“The determination as to what constitutes an acceptable amount is on a case-by-case basis and considers the location, size, and condition of the property, as well as market analysis and historical data from previous sales,” said Cat Langel, Regional Public Affairs Officer for the GSA.

If the sales don’t go through, the GSA will likely re-auction the property.

The federal agency is selling the lighthouses as surplus property. The four lighthouses were listed for sale in July as part of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act. Bidders could be private individuals or nonprofits. Proceeds from the sales will go into the Coast Guard’s Aid To Navigation Fund for equipment, maintenance and preservation of the lighthouses.

John L. Russell is a photojournalist and writer from Traverse City.