Imagine camping in a lighthouse, a mile into Lake Erie

Karen and Jerry Killilea Jr. have spent summer vacations at the Conneaut Harbor West Breakwater Lighthouse since buying it from the U.S. Coast Guast in an online auction in 2011. Now that Jerry has cancer, though, the couple is selling the National Historic Landmark.

“We enjoyed just going back to the basics,” said Karen.

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.

See a gallery of vintage Lake Erie lighthouse photos, and read about the Cleveland lighthouse going up for auction.

The Killileas, of Orient, in central Ohio, paid $46,000 for the lighthouse. The minimum price for the four-floor, 20-window lighthouse was $5,000. It received six bids.

The 1935-built steel tower, which stands 60 feet tall and looks similar to the light in Huron, cost $70,000 to build.

The Killileas are asking $72,000 now for the square structure, which has no electricity and no plumbing.

They are selling the property by owner and already have a few prospective buyers. They hope to receive all bids by March 26. (For more information, email Karen at [email protected].)

“Hopefully by this summer, we will have found the prefect owners to carry the lighthouse into the future,” she said.

The Killileas used to take a boat packed with sleeping bags and air mattresses out to the lighthouse. They had lawn chairs and a grill for food.

They’d wave to boaters or visitors who walked the mile on the breakwall. They watched freighters come in to the harbor and took in fireworks from the top.

“You get all that reflection, as well as that intermittent red flash,” Karen said.

Jerry has been undergoing chemotherapy and just received a bone marrow transfusion.  

“We know with it’s going to be awhile before our lives can pick up,” she said. “Put it back on the market where we can find owners who are more available to give it the time and resources it needs.”

A little history on the light, the farthest east in Ohio, according to

1835: First lighthouse built in Conneaut

1872: Keeper’s dwelling built

1895: New pyramidal tower built in a pier, using the previous light..

1906: New wooden, cylindrical tower covered with iron and painted white built for $8,400.

1920: Two-story concrete lighthouse with a tower rising in northeast corner built.

1936: Current sleek, electric-powered light commissioned.

1972: Light automated. Now, the tower flashes red and white every five seconds..

1992: Light named to the National Register of Historic Places with the comment: In the 1930s there was a conscious effort to represent the machine age, speed and efficiency. The style of this lighthouse is a clear attempt to look modern and to make a break from the past.”