He served as steward for the Middle Grounds Lighthouse on Long Island Sound for eight years.
Nick Korstad loves lighthouses.
Of course, everyone loves lighthouses. They’re spooky and romantic, adorned with some of our favorite Long Island gadgets.
But Nick doesn’t just buy baubles with pictures of lighthouses on them. Nick actually purchased the lighthouse.
He used to own about six. He once owned the Borden Flats Lighthouse in Massachusetts and the Spectacle Reef Lighthouse on Lake Huron, but he has since sold them.he currently owns Great Bay Point Lighthouse With Browns Head Light in Michigan and Maine, he has been monitoring the Stratford Shoal Lighthouse for about eight years.
The Stratford Shoal Lighthouse is known to Long Islanders as a “middle ground” lighthouse. The granite building, which flashes and roars roughly every five seconds or so, is located roughly halfway between Port Jefferson and Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Nick has that.
During that time, he was more of a housekeeper, which he gave up due to the complexity of ownership and the burden of government paperwork.
So, if you haven’t heard of it, it’s return to the market.
Although the official listing says it’s located in Setauket, NY, it’s not. This is part of the reason why Nick doesn’t own the Stratford Shoal Lighthouse now and why you can’t go there and play the lighthouse for a week at a time as he originally planned.
photo: Nick Korstad (right) with his friends Laurie McGee (centre) and Tony Piatti at the Borden Flats lighthouse he sold.
It’s a long and complicated story, with a lot of red tape and state regulations, but most importantly, while stewardship of the lighthouse goes to Nick, the land it stands on doesn’t. That belongs to the Constitutional State aka Connecticut.
“There’s no title to the land it’s on,” Nick laments. “The land must be leased from Connecticut.”
Nick filled out hundreds of pages of paperwork to apply for stewardship and made various promises to protect and care for it to the U.S. General Services Administration (USGSA), the agency that administers transfers of federally owned lighthouses. His intentions were clear: He wanted to give the lantern a new coat of paint, make some other modifications, and turn it around to give people the chance to experience staying in a lighthouse for a week at a time.
But this is not in compliance.
“The state sees it more like a hotel,” he said. “There are red flags.”
There’s a catch-22. If he applies for a use the state wants, he falls outside the federal government’s agreement, which means years of back-and-forth and hundreds of pages of paperwork.
The Stratford Shoal Lighthouse is up for auction this June. Photo: Courtesy of the U.S. General Services Administration.
As much as he regrets it, without income, he can’t justify funding the work needed to restore and upgrade the lighthouse, and he’s already spent years on the project.
“I gave it back in 2022,” he said. “After an eight-year process, I think it’s better not to pursue it.”
Nick also felt that another decade of idling the lighthouse would be bad for the building.
As a result, the Stratford Shoal Lighthouse will be auctioned on June 12 with a starting bid of $10,000. There are a few reasons Nick isn’t going to buy it, one being that he’s already done with the lighthouse, which can only be reached by boat. He is looking for several others to add to his collection, but both are on land.
There is a difference between what Nick plans to do as steward, the transfer of the lighthouse without the money changing hands, and what the person who buys the lighthouse can do. You still have to deal with the state of Connecticut and may have to lease the land and pay property taxes, but once you buy it, the structure is yours and you can do whatever you want.
“If you sell it at a government auction, you can do whatever you want,” Nick said.
Although the starting bid was $10,000, Nick thinks the lighthouse is worth $350,000, and he thinks there might be a bid for it.
“A lot of people have money, and a multi-millionaire could restore it and take a boat there for private use,” he said. “Somebody with deep pockets and wanting to tell a story.”
Like a 2,000 square foot mansion in the middle of Long Island Sound.
“It looks like a trophy,” joked Nick.
Nick hasn’t been to the lighthouse since 2015, but says it needs some TLC to restore it. He estimated another $500,000 would be needed to restore it. Needed to add a bathroom, paint the lantern, new windows and restore the hardwood floors, and of course the cost of having a worker in there to do the restoration. Otherwise, according to Nick, the two-and-a-half-foot-thick walls hold up just fine.
“It’s in really good shape,” he said.