The U.S. Coast Guard has determined that the light keeper’s house that sits next to the much-photographed Nobska Lighthouse in Woods Hole is, “excess to the mission of the Coast Guard,” according to a spokesman.
That determination clears the way for the government to lease the nearly 140-year-old house to another organization, or to sell it.
Spokesman Joe Klinker says the Coast Guard will always keep possession of the light, which remains an aid to navigation.
But the light keeper’s house, which has been occupied by active-duty coast guard employees since 1973, needs 550-thousand dollars worth of repairs to return it to good condition. Klinker says that’s probably not a good use of taxpayer dollars.
The maintenance needs came to light in July after Captain John Kondratowicz (pronounced Kon-dra-TOW-wits) took command of the Southeastern New England sector. After taking command in April, he considered moving in, as the previous commander had done. But a review of the home exposed problems with the roof, among other areas of the aging structure.
According to the Town of Falmouth assessor’s web site, the house is worth $225,600, while the land is worth $1,482,100. Other features on the property are valued at $1,498,400.
Any organization that wants to take stewardship of the light keeper’s house will have to explain exactly what will be done with it, Klinker said.
“They [the Coast Guard] do want to see what kind of plans the organization has for maintaining it,” he said.
The Coast Guard also wants to know whether the public would still be welcome.
“Would it become a museum, would it become a public institution, would it become a private institution?” he said.
Other lighthouses on Cape Cod have been through a similar process. In Truro, the light keeper’s house at Highland Light was sold to the National Park Service, while Race Point Lighthouse in Provincetown still belongs to the Coast Guard but was restored in 1995 by the Cape Cod Chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation and is now run as an inn.
The Coast Guard is still in the early stages of deciding what to do with the Nobska house. Klinker says it will likely take years before the Coast Guard makes any decision on it, partly because Nobska has to rise from its current position near the bottom of a queue of 41 other lighthouses in the same situation.
Klinker said organizations interested in taking stewardship of the Nobska light keeper’s house should contact the Coast Guard’s Civil Engineering Unit in Providence.