Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Historic Preservation

Committee Member

Dr. Carter L. Hudgins, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Craig M. Bennett, Jr.

Committee Member

Amalia Leifeste


With the automation of lights and rapid advances in navigational technology in the twentieth century, lighthouses became obsolete and fell into deterioration. With a large push by a lighthouse preservation movement in the 1990s, Congress passed the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000 (NHLPA), an amendment to the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). This legislation allowed the U.S. Coast Guard, which holds jurisdiction over lighthouse administration, to declare their lighthouses excess and transfer or sell them through a process administered by the National Park Service and General Services Administration. Through an application process, federal agencies, local and state governments, or nonprofit organizations can apply for a no-cost transfer of a lighthouse. If no suitable applicant is found, the lighthouse goes to auction where it is sold to the highest bidder, or a private owner. Between passage of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act in 2000 and the present day, the U.S. Coast Guard transferred ownership of 120 historic lighthouses to governmental, nonprofit, or private owners. This thesis assesses this program by ascertaining, first, which category of ownership participates most actively in the program, and, second, how new owners have resolved the significant responsibilities that come with ownership of a large, complicated historic structure. Evaluation of the results of questionaires revealed that new owners have met their obligations for repair and maintenance and express satisfaction with their efforts to preserve one of the nation's most popular building types. By studying the different ownership structures and day-to-day management of the lighthouses, a better understanding was gained of the challenges and rewards of our present day "keepers," and what needs to be done now and by future generations to preserve these important iconic structures.



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