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Woman buys an abandoned lighthouse for $71K, transforms it into a lovely summer retreat

Can you imagine yourself living in an abandoned lighthouse? It might sound like a lovely idea, with thoughts of peace, ocean mist, and vast views.

Even though it seems like a very alone kind of life, something is fascinating about living in these tall, old buildings by the sea that’s more than just being by yourself.

In 2009, Sheila Consaul started an unexpected journey searching for a second home.

At 65 years old, this communications consultant had her eyes opened to a unique opportunity: the U.S. government was auctioning off lighthouses, and it piqued her curiosity.

In 2000, Congress passed the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, CNBC Make It noted.

This act allowed the government to auction or give away “federally-owned historic light stations that have been declared excess to the needs of the responsible agency.”

Sheila saw in this a chance to combine her love for historic preservation with the dream of having a summer retreat.

Sheila had a history of restoring historic homes, so taking on an abandoned lighthouse excited her immensely.

The one that stole her heart was the Fairport Harbor West Lighthouse in Ohio, which became available for auction. In 2009, she began bidding, and in 2011, she emerged victorious with a winning bid of $71,010.

Built in 1925, this lighthouse boasted three bedrooms, three bathrooms, three floors, and nearly 3,000 square feet of history.

It had been an abandoned lighthouse since the late 1940s, making Sheila the first person to live in it in over seven decades.

Sheila spends her summers at the lighthouse from May to October, while her primary home is outside Washington D.C. When she first acquired the lighthouse, it needed a lot of TLC.

Broken windows, falling plaster, and a desperate need for a fresh coat of paint were among the challenges she faced.

To purchase the lighthouse and fund the initial renovations, Sheila used a $200,000 home equity loan.

She began renovating in the summer of 2012, and after over a decade of hard work, the project is nearly complete. She describes the journey as “long and challenging.”

One of the unique challenges Sheila encountered was the lighthouse’s remote location, about half a mile from the nearest parking lot in Headlands Beach State Park.

This meant that large appliances like the stove and refrigerator had to be transported by boat and delivered by crane onto the lighthouse platform.

Since acquiring the lighthouse, Sheila estimates she’s spent over $300,000 on renovations.

Most of this money went into creating a complete modern transformation of the abandoned lighthouse, with a dining room and a stunning kitchen featuring granite countertops, modern appliances, and new cabinets.

It also has a cozy living room, with a handy utility laundry room nearby.

Some highlights of the lighthouse are the cast-iron staircase leading to the second floor and beautiful stained glass windows.

Shiela said she has a wall dedicated to the volunteers who have generously lent their support throughout the renovation process, helping with painting, cleaning, refurbishing, and restoring this lighthouse.

Down the abandoned lighthouse, which once served as a mechanical level for the lighthouse keepers, you’ll find a cistern, a wine cellar, a bunk room, and a fully restored bathroom.

Shiela opted for composting toilets and rainwater collection due to the lack of connection to water and sewer systems.

Meanwhile, upstairs are the living quarters where the keepers once resided.

The lighthouse’s original dark brown floors were carefully refurbished, and a compass rose was added to a refurbished section.

The lighthouse retains its historic charm, with the original white hexagon tile in the bathroom.

One of the most intriguing aspects of her lighthouse life is it’s completely off the grid.

Sheila relies on a gasoline-powered generator, solar power, and wind power to meet her energy needs.

Despite surpassing her initial $200,000 renovation budget, Sheila believes every moment has been worth it.

She says, “This was a great challenge, a great opportunity, and I loved every minute of it.”

It’s important to note that while Sheila owns the lighthouse structure, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers owns the land it sits on.

To maintain her connection to this unique piece of history, she paid $2,500 for a 25-year lease.

The Fairport Harbor West Lighthouse remains a functioning aid to navigation, so Sheila works closely with the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Weather Service, and the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office when needed.

The lighthouse’s beacon, a vital part of maritime safety, is still maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard, shining every night at dusk and going dark at dawn.

When Sheila purchased the lighthouse, she understood it was more than just a structure; it was a beacon for her new community.

That’s why she’s been hosting open houses to celebrate the lighthouse’s birthday, June 9, nearly every year since 2012.

And as long as she owns the lighthouse, she plans to continue offering private tours. She even intends to renew her lease if she lives out the 25-year agreement.

“One thing that was very important to me when I bought this lighthouse was that I understood that this was part of this community of Fairport Harbor,” she says.

Check out how Shiela transformed an old, abandoned lighthouse into an adorable home below:

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