Every once in a while, a lighthouse will come up for sale. And the minds of those who crave adventure, solitude and sturdiness -- but who, paradoxically, also dream of opening a guest house, where strangers will eat homemade scones -- will begin churning, like so many waves in a storm.
Friends, here is your beacon: The Wolf Trap Lighthouse, in Mathews, Va., a part of the state that, according to Wikipedia, was originally inhabited by Chiskiake Indians, then "transferred to English speaking persons under suspicious circumstances."
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On the market for $249,500, this three-bedroom abode (its address, charmingly, is 56 Shore Drive, and it comes with a piece of waterfront land) is said in its listing to have been built in 1894, though this would seem to conceal some interesting historical details.
According to one timeline, the original Wolf Trap Lighthouse was erected in 1821. It was then destroyed by Confederate troops in 1861, re-built in 1864, refurbished in 1870, then again destroyed, this time by ice, in 1893. Its pieces floated some distance away, and, for a time, rather than helping to guide seafarers to safety, its remains became "a dangerous obstacle to navigation," as claims Wolf Trap's National Register of Historic Places Nomination application.
The 1894 version of this lighthouse was designed to be extra-resilient against ice, which seems to have done the trick, though its body reportedly fell into quite a bit of disrepair in the 30-odd years between its last use and 2005, when the somewhat foreboding-looking octagonal structure was bought for $75,000 by a Seattle-based lighthouse enthusiast who, it was said, wanted to turn the place into a bed and breakfast.
This serial lighthouse purchaser did not hold onto it for long. He told the Sequim Gazette that he had to put Wolf Trap up for sale shortly after buying it, "after problems with vandalism proved to be too much to handle from Seattle, where he lived at the time." The lighthouse was then bought by a South Carolina veterinarian, sight unseen, for either $115,000 or $119,000, depending on the source.
“I enjoy buying unique properties,” James Southard told Pleasant Living magazine, “and thought it would be fun to fix up as a family getaway and possibly use it as a bed and breakfast.”
Fun, but expensive. Here's the Craigslist ad, posted on Wednesday, that says how that turned out:
This posting is for the Wolf Trap Lighthouse and a deep water shore lot in Horne Harbor, VA. I currently do not have the time or money to finish this project. If interested please call Jim at 843-709-7500. No emails without phone numbers. Thx. Trades for waterfront in the Charleston area may be considered.
You could get lost in the photo accompanying the Craigslist ad, which shows the red, two-story lighthouse, with its tough construction and its still-working light, jutting up out of the endless blue water, almost like a castle coming out of the clouds.
Some miles into the Chesapeake Bay, this 100-odd-year-old home -- at once industrial looking and imperious and isolated, and yet still cozy and historic and romantic -- looks like just the sort of place that would be ideal to sail off to when life on land gets too crowded.
It looks, truly, like it would make a wonderful inn.