Digest>Archives> August 2010

Wickie’s Wisdom

Battle of Borden Flats

By Timothy Harrison

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I have to wonder who is really going to monitor the historic integrity of the many lighthouses being sold at auction in the federal government’s great lighthouse giveaway.

What’s going to happen to the lighthouses that become commercial ventures that don’t fall within the historic guidelines? Who is going to save a privately owned lighthouse if the new owners lose interest in the lighthouse, or run out of money to maintain it? Will the descendants of the owner of a lighthouse bought at public auction want to take care of it? If not, how long will it take the government to step in and revoke a deed that was given years before?

These are all questions that have been nagging at the back of my mind for some time. But, I never imagined the type of situation that occurred in the battle for ownership of the Borden Flats Lighthouse in Massachusetts.

In September of 2008, attorney Michael Gabriel, of Carson City, Nevada, submitted the high bid of $55,000 at auction for the lighthouse. He said one of his plans was to install a brewery in the lighthouse. Then however, according to the General Service Administration, Gabriel defaulted on the payment for the lighthouse, so they put it back up for auction.

Not so fast, says Gabriel, who already owns two other lighthouses in Maryland and Delaware. Gabriel was already mad over the auction of two New York lighthouses that he wanted to buy where he was the second highest bidder. It seems the high bidder defaulted, so Gabriel wanted to be awarded ownership and he filed suit. He also filed for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, which legally is supposed to stop any action by the federal government. Gabriel says any person bidding on Borden Flats lighthouse will be fighting him in court. He said he will be paying for the lighthouse, if the government allows him too, but feels they apparently don’t want him to own it. He also says the government misrepresented the condition of the lighthouse.

What a mess! Perhaps it is time for the government to put a stop to all lighthouse auctions until more safeguards can be put into place. While the financially strapped nonprofits are trying to do the right thing in saving and restoring lighthouses in a historically correct manner, it seems private owners can do what they want, provided they have good high priced lawyers and enough money.

Does anyone really care, or am I just worrying for nothing while I blow off a little steam? Or, is there more to the story? Whatever the case, it would be nice to get more facts from all concerned, as well as opinions from the lighthouse community.

This story appeared in the August 2010 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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