Light buyer reveals identity
MANISTIQUE – The soon-to-be new owner of the East Breakwater Lighthouse has big plans for the city’s beloved icon – none of which involve moving or altering its appearance. In fact, the proprietor plans to restore the structure and maintain it for all to enjoy.
Bill Collins, of Newbury, Ohio, has been a fan of lighthouses from childhood – growing up alongside Lake Erie. According to Collins, he has been pursuing the purchase of a lighthouse for a while, scouring the Great Lakes and even a few in the Ohio area.
“I’ve grown up living on Lake Erie, and I’ve just always found them intriguing,” he said.
Unfortunately, his search proved unfruitful until recently. In May, Collins purchased the Liston Rear Range Lighthouse in Port Penn, Del. Then, in July, he placed his winning bid for the East Breakwater Lighthouse on the General Services Administration’s auction website.
The auction closed on July 15 and Collins’ bid of $15,000 was officially accepted by the GSA on July 29. Now, the owner of two auto body shops in northeast Ohio only has mere weeks to wait before he can call himself the official owner of Manistique’s claim to fame.
“There’s still some paperwork that needs to be finalized with the GSA and the Army Corps of Engineers for obtaining a lease for the breakwall for the lighthouse,” he said.
While Collins has only experienced Manistique through the Internet, he said it is readily apparent the city cherishes the light.
“The city seems quite proud of it,” he said. “That’s the focal point of the town.”
To date, Collins’ Michigan visits were limited to Cheboygan and the Mackinac area. He plans to visit Manistique within the next 30 days.
“I’ve been to Michigan before, and it’s a beautiful state,” he said. “Michigan really knows how to take care of its natural resources. Lake Michigan’s a beautiful lake and I was excited that this worked out.”
According to Collins, he has been in contact with Manistique City Manager Sheila Aldrich and Mayor David Peterson, both of whom are excited to see the light restored. Once all the paperwork is finalized, he explained the first step would be to get the light painted.
“I want it to look right for the city again – that’s my goal,” Collins said.
While his research has confirmed that the light has changed from its original dark grey or black color in the
1900s, Collins said he would rather restore the current color – red – the one that people are most familiar with.
“I think it looks great the way it does,” he said.
Despite having some quotes from contractors in the Cleveland area, Collins said he would like to see any work on the light completed by local contractors.
“I would rather keep it in the economy in Manistique,” he said. “So, if there are any contractors or anything willing to step forward and bid out the process of painting it, I’m welcoming any input.”
Collins noted he thinks there would be more “pride” if everything was handled locally.
“I just want to make this good for everybody up there; I really do,” he said.