Lake Huron lighthouse for sale for $1 million
Written by LAUREN ABDEL-RAZZAQ, The Detroit News   
Sunday, 22 December 2013 07:53
This is an AP Member Exchange shared by The Detroit News.

PORT SANILAC, Mich. (AP) — Ice chunks cling to the rocks and float along the shoreline of Lake Huron as heavy snow clouds hover over the horizon, threatening a storm to come. But no matter how dark it gets, the Port Sanilac lighthouse will guide anyone out on the lake to shore.

It's been that way since 1886.

"When you're there in the winter and the winds start kicking up, you get a real sense of what it was like when there was a keeper there carrying kerosene up the stairs to the light, doing his job," said Tim Conklin, who has owned the lighthouse and its attached caretaker's house with his wife, Ian Aronsson, since the 1990s when she inherited it.

Aronsson's grandfather Carl Rosenfield, founder of Carl's Chop House in Detroit, bought the property from the government in 1928 for $4,000 after it was decommissioned.

"Back when the government originally sold the lighthouse, it didn't have that kind of historic connotation that they do now," Conklin told The Detroit News ( http://bit.ly/18RLAHE ). "They just sold it as surplus government property."

Now the couple have decided to sell the property, which has been the time capsule for more than 80 years of their family's memories.

"It's been a constant living history for us," Conklin said. "The things that are inside, it's not a museum where things were collected from the period; it's stuff that's been used."

Conklin and Aronsson have used the lighthouse as a weekend and summer home, taking the time to renovate the attached 2,400-square-foot three-bedroom, 1 1/2-bath home.

Price for the lighthouse and caretaker home: $999,800.

The lighthouse is a beacon for both ships and for the village of about 620 residents in the Thumb area, said Port Sanilac village president Andy Fabian.

"The history is just incredible. There are some great stories attached to that building," said Fabian, owner of the Van Camp House Restaurant. "It's the centerpiece of our community."

The lighthouse was built as a response to increased shipping traffic in the Great Lakes. Two families lived in the caretaker's house before Rosenfield bought the property.

Until the lighthouse's lamp was electrified in 1929, the keeper would lug the fuel up 58 feet of stairs to the tower to keep the light burning. The light is now automated and can be seen 16 miles out into the lake, beamed by the lighthouse's original Fresnel lens, which is owned and cared for by the Coast Guard.

The lighthouse is so important to Port Sanilac, the village considered buying the lighthouse last year, but couldn't find the funds, said Fabian.

"It was just out of our reach," he said. "To do a (loan) we would have had to have a supporting millage and it would have been a bad time to put a tax on our residents."

According to the state tourism website, Michigan has 115 lighthouses, more than any other state. The opportunities to buy one are few and far between.

Since 2000, the federal General Services Administration has sold 26 lights for prices ranging from $10,000 to $933,000, mostly to governmental entities or nonprofits, said Cat Langel, a spokeswoman for the agency's Great Lakes Division.

Once the U.S. Coast Guard determines a light isn't necessary anymore, the GSA is authorized to begin the process to find new stewards for the light under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act.

If the government can't find a qualified buyer, the law allows the property to be sold at auction, usually with a minimum bid deposit of $10,000, Langel said.

"As with any real estate, there are numerous factors that affect each property's final price including location, condition of the property, and fluctuations in the real estate market," she said.

Privately owned lighthouses presently for sale in Michigan include one on Squaw Island, near Beaver Island, which is listed for $3.2 million and includes 69 acres, and the Round Island lighthouse on St. Mary's River, which is listed for $2.4 million and includes the 7-acre island and a 3-acre mainland parcel.

Anyone who takes on a lighthouse will have to be prepared for the responsibility, said Jeff Shook, president of the Fenton-based Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy, which specializes in restoring decommissioned lighthouses around the state.

"It's somebody that has to have a passion and interest in history, because it's a lot of upkeep and maintenance in general," said Shook. "It would be very beneficial to have somebody who has that respect for the history of the tower and the house."

The Port Sanilac lighthouse is unusual because unlike most lighthouses, it's in a village, rather than a remote area, he said.

"I always say there's this lighthouse keeper romance that people have," said Shook. "You get a remote lighthouse someplace that's hard to get to and off the beaten track, and hey there's this family that used to live out there and keep the light and guide ships."

The view from the top of the Port Sanilac lighthouse includes the water and the nearby marina, which is closed during the winter. But even with few shops open in the area, people still drive past, stopping to pause, roll down their windows and snap photos of the stark white tower standing out against the cloudy sky.

"It's an iconic monument for our beautiful little town," said Fabian. "That light shines through the whole winter reminding us we'll be out on the water soon."

___

Information from: The Detroit News, http://detnews.com/


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