Condition will help Port officials decide if they will try to acquire landmark also sought by Michigan group
An inspection of the Port Washington lighthouse by the National Park Service will be done sometime in September, marking the start of a 90-day window for city officials to make an application to acquire the landmark, Mayor Tom Mlada announced last week.
“The clock is ticking,” Mlada said. “We’ve got a lot to learn about it (the condition of the lighthouse. And there’s a lot of work to be done.”
The Coast Guard has decided to divest itself of the Port Washington lighthouse, and earlier this year published a notice to discern if anyone is interested in acquiring the structure.
Both the City of Port Washington and the Michigan-based Geek Group sent letters of interest to the General Services Administration saying they would like to acquire the lighthouse.
Mlada said he initially hoped that a partnership could be forged with the Geek Group that would ensure the city had control of the structure, but that does not seem likely.
The city has formed a committee of interested people to explore the acquisition and application, and one of those members recently went to Michigan and spoke to a Geek Group representative who said they believe they will be successful in acquiring the lighthouse on their own, Mlada said.
“He said they have no interest in a partnership and they emphatically believe they will be granted conveyance,” he said.
“Now, it’s up to us .... to submit an application, a robust one.”
The lighthouse is a defining feature of Port Washington, Mlada said, one the city has to work to protect.
“It speaks to who we are,” he said.
Mlada asked that anyone interested in joining the lighthouse committee contact him.
“We have to tell our story, what it means to us,” he said. “It’s important.”
City officials agreed last fall to consider acquiring the distinctive lighthouse, but said then that the need to ensure the iconic structure remains in the harbor must be weighed against the cost of renovating and maintaining it.
The lighthouse, which was built in 1935, consists of a metal Art Deco tower that rests on a 20-foot-square cement base that has large arches on each of its faces so it doesn’t obstruct the view of mariners using the harbor.
Since it was built, the distinctive lighthouse has been a symbol of Port Washington, used on everything from the city’s logo to postcards.
A trip to the breakwater and lighthouse is part of the tourist experience in Port Washington, and images of the lighthouse are captured by hundreds of photographers each year.
The fact that the city is currently working to stabilize and improve the breakwater on which the lighthouse is located makes it even more important that officials ensure it is maintained, officials have said.
The federal government has placed 154 lighthouses throughout the country on the market since it began divesting the structures in 2001, according to the National parks Service website.
Ten of those, including Port Washington’s, have been in Wisconsin and 43 in Michigan.
Under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, lighthouses are first offered to governmental units, non-profit and educational agencies and community development organizations.
They are conveyed to these groups at no cost, but these groups must maintain the lighthouses while the Coast Guard continues to maintain the lights.