Historic lighthouse homes being sold at auction in the Florida Keys

Nineteenth-century offshore lighthouses may draw buyers seeking affordable marine getaways

Miami Weekend Edition /
Feb.February 27, 2022 12:00 PM
From left: American Shoal Lighthouse, Sombrero Key Lighthouse and Carysfort Reef Lighthouse (Photos via U.S. General Services Administration)

From left: American Shoal Lighthouse, Sombrero Key Lighthouse and Carysfort Reef Lighthouse (Photos via U.S. General Services Administration)

To the lighthouse?

A trio of 19th-Century cast-iron structures in the Florida Keys, each with a keeper’s quarters, are being sold by the U.S. General Services Administration. The catch: They’re at least six miles offshore.

Bidding began at $15,000 on Feb. 22 and increments were set at $2,500. The land beneath each house doesn’t come with a sale, and two are in preservation areas that contain protected marine species – meaning no fishing.

The oldest is the Carysfort Reef Lighthouse, built in 1852 and in service as a navigational beacon until 2015. It’s about six miles off Key Largo, within a protected area, and has a 124-foot tower in an octagonal screw-pile design and a landing dock. Bidding ends April 2.

Then there’s the Sombrero Key Lighthouse, built in 1858 and also in use until 2015. Soaring 142 feet from the waves seven miles off Marathon, it’s the tallest lighthouse in the Keys and its original Fresnel lens is on display at the Key West Lighthouse Museum. Bidding lasts until April 29.

The third lighthouse is the 1880 American Shoal Lighthouse, a 109-foot tower about six miles from Sugarloaf Key. Bidding ends May 6.

Bidders must register in advance at realestatesales.gov and submit a $5,000 deposit. Site inspections will only be offered to registered bidders.

Proceeds will go to the U.S. Coast Guard’s Aid to Navigation Fund, which pays for equipment and resources to preserve and maintain aids to navigation.

The sales were directed by the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act. To date, 133 lighthouses have been sold or transferred from federal ownership, with 78 transferred at no cost to preservationists and 55 were sold by auction to the public.





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