Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The lighthouse in economics

No longer an academic squabble, they're becoming clearly private goods (with a decidedly fixer-upper character) thanks to a 2000 law; The National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act. That's according to Amy Gamerman's article in the Wall Street Journal today.

Unfortunately for non-fictional Mr. and Mrs. Blandings, the purchase prices are just the beginning. As Kelly Navarro found out after she paid $340,000 for Saybrook Breakwater Light, a white, cast-iron lighthouse shaped like s sparkplug, [which] has guarded the mouth of the Connecticut River since 1866.

It does have a 360 degree view of Long Island Sound, but now that Ms. Navarro owns it, she will have to make it liveable;
 "It's a beauty,"  Mr. [Richard] Ventrone [an architect specializing in restoring lighthouses in Rhode Island] said. "I'm going to say it's between $800,000 to $1 million to probably get this place to where it needs to be." The cost of painting it alone, he estimates, would run between $60,000 to $70,000.
 And she'll still have to live with the bright light that the Coast Guard keeps flashing every six seconds, as well as the foghorn that's so loud hearing protection is required, according to a sign posted. Then there is Sheila Consaul who bought Fairport Harbor West Breakwater Light in Ohio for $71,000 from the GSA. It's a 1925 lighthouse with square, steel-sheather walls and a red cupola that sits on a rock platform in Lake Erie. The attractions included high ceilings, tall windows and curling wrought-iron staircases. The original terra-cotta tiles on the main floor were all in good condition, as were the maple hardwood floors on the upper stories.

Though, since it hadn't been lived in for 65 years, it had no doors, no sinks, no plumbing. And other shortcomings;
Ms. Consaul is in the midst of transforming it into a three bedroom, 3½-bath retreat, with a tentative budget of $300,000. To get to her lighthouse, she must park her car at a state beach, then hike a mile through a marsh, across the sand and down a slippery stone breakwater—or travel 10 minutes from Fairport Harbor by boat. There is no dock, so she ties the boat to the railing of a stone staircase that rises steeply up a side of the lighthouse platform.
 Somewhere beyond the sea/somewhere waiting for me....

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