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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Lighthouse Retreat

I’m the married father of three sons, aged 6 to 14, so the idea of finding a cool place for Dad to spend some alone time—where no one either asks me to do anything or complains about something—occasionally crosses my mind.

So when I read in The Wall Street Journal last week that the federal government was selling via public auction the Latimer Reef Lighthouse in Long Island Sound, a place I had not ever heard of until that very moment, I needed to check it out.


I did so knowing Mrs. Barry would never sign on to such a real estate transaction, even though the Fishers Island Sound, NY property as of this writing can be acquired for slightly over $10,000, the minimum bid. Plus, not having a boat would prove problematic for me, as well. The site is only accessible by watercraft. Someone has already offered to buy the lighthouse for $10,000, and this columnist will not be engaging in a bidding war with them.

Nonetheless, I will share with you, the lighthouse buying public, what I learned during my due diligence. The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), which has since 2000 administered the federal program that conveys historic lighthouses to new stewards in accordance with the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, prepared a 19-page invitation for bids. It offers details on what you’ll get if this parcel becomes part of your real estate portfolio. The Latimer Reef Lighthouse’s particulars can be found at The U.S. Coast Guard and the National Park Service are the other federal agencies involved in the sales process.

If you like what you see, and can live with some of the restrictions on the property’s use even after its transfer to a private owner, then place a bid at The deadline for submissions is not listed as yet. Registered bidders will get a tour of the site within the next few weeks.

The 46-foot, four-story cast iron and brick tower has no utility services and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a designation limiting the structural improvements which may be needed to make the place habitable. And, even though Fishers Island Sound, NY is closer to Mystic, CT than to Montauk, NY, Suffolk County’s town of Southold has jurisdiction over the lighthouse’s zoning.

The town of Southold knows this already. Their website has an entire section devoted to the East End lighthouses within their purview. Back when the Latimer Reef Lighthouse was manned, its first three stories served as living quarters and the fourth story constituted the watch deck, Southold’s website reports. The lighthouse opened in 1884, and has been in its current state since 1974, historical records indicate.

There are obstacles to having ‘quiet time’ at the Latimer Reef Lighthouse: the Coast Guard operates an automated light at the locale which flashes once every six seconds and an active fog signal horn/bell will remain there, too, the bid invitation states. Come to think of it, those features may form the building blocks of a Latimer Reef Nightclub.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: