The U.S. Coast Guard could sell the bigger lighthouse in Cleveland’s harbor this year.

The Guard owns both lighthouses along the breakwall, where the Cuyahoga River meets Lake Erie, said Chris Channels, executive petty officer at the Aids to Navigation Team in Buffalo, which oversees buoys and lighthouse from the St. Lawrence River to Vermilion.

The Coast Guard has invested more than $1 million into the bigger, East lighthouse, fixing structural issues and repainting over the past several seasons, Channels said. The Guard plans to auction off the light, as soon as this summer — that is, if the city doesn’t ask for it.

“If they get all the refurbishment done, as soon as the Coast Guard says we’re good to go, they’ll put it on the auction site,” he said. “Sometimes the city will say, can we have that?”

The Coast Guard — which merged with the U.S. Lightkeepers Service in 1939 — regularly sells off unnecessary lighthouses, which become summer homes, museums or bed and breakfasts. For example, the Fairport Harbor West Breakwater Light.

But the nautical beacons never lose their individual allure.

“These are sentinels. They’re first built to help ships in distress,” said Ric Mixter, president of the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association, founded in 1983 by the descendants of lightkeepers. “That draw, it’s a romance of the lakes”

The first Great Lakes lighthouse were built in 1818 in Buffalo and Erie, Pennsylvania. Few from that era are left, Mixter said. But a lot from the mid-1800s are still standing.

They look radically different, built in different eras to follow different architectural trends and using different techniques to withstand wind and waves.

“Part of the appeal lighthouses have is that they are found in some of the most beautiful settings, often on rugged coastlines dotted with conifers or on sandy beaches lined with palms,” writes Kraig Anderson, who has visited every lighthouse in the United States and most in Canada. “Perhaps lighthouses also appeal to our nostalgic and artistic senses as they are some of the most historic structures to be found in the United States, and the architectural detail found in many of them is amazing.”

See modern photos of all the lighthouses on the south shore of Lake Erie in this story.