The Superior Entry lighthouse is for sale. It is one of three lighthouses being auctioned off by the U.S. General Services Administration as part of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act.
An online auction for the Superior lighthouse began July 10 with a minimum bid of $10,000 required. As of Thursday, July 18, there had been one bid for the Superior structure, which is more than 100 years old. No ending date has been set.
Construction of the lighthouse began in 1911. It replaced a temporary light used since the November 1905 Mataafa Storm washed away an earlier light. Its light was first lit in 1913 and automated in 1970.
The lighthouse encompasses five stories: a basement, a two-story main area with living quarters and a light tower surmounted by a lantern. Following the sale, the light would continue to serve as an active navigation aid and remain the property of the U.S. Coast Guard, which will maintain an easement to service it.
Because the lighthouse sits at the end of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers breakwater, a lease from the Corps would be required to determine what can and can’t be transported to the structure.
There are limitations on what the lighthouse could be used for. The area is zoned suburban, which restricts owners to 11 possible uses, including a home, community building, seasonal cabin, church or educational institution. But a minimum of 5 acres is needed to develop suburban property, according to the city planning department.
Wisconsin’s Public Trust Doctrine for structures on filled lands within navigable waterways narrows those options down even further. Generally, such sites must be used for marine commerce or public recreational purposes.
“In my view, this lighthouse couldn’t be used as a house,” said Superior Economic Development, Planning and Port Director Jason Serck. “It couldn’t be used as pretty much anything than what it is today.”
And the lighthouse is on Wisconsin Point, which is closed to traffic, parking and camping between the hours of 11 p.m. and 4 a.m.
“There’s a lot of limitations on what you can do in an area like that,” Serck said. “You would hope the buyer would be informed and would ask questions before they would actually purchase it of what they can and can’t do with it.”
In addition, the new owner would be required to maintain the light to the Secretary of the Interior’s standards for historic preservation.
The Superior Entry Lighthouse was up for grabs once before. In 2013, the federal government offered the historic structure free to any eligible entity or nonprofit for educational, recreational, cultural or historic preservation purposes. There were no takers.
In addition to the Superior lighthouse, the Poe Reef Lighthouse 6 miles east of Cheboygan, Michigan, and the Ontonagon Breakwater Light on Michigan's Upper Peninsula are also being auctioned. Those sales began June 20 with starting bids of $50,000 and $5,000, respectively.
The National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act has sold or transferred 139 lighthouses out of federal ownership since it began in 2000, finding new owners for the historic structures. Visit realestatesales.gov for additional information or to place a bid.