New Owner Will Face Challenge With Butler Flats Plan
With the report that the new owner of the Butler Flats Lighthouse was touring the property this week, it appears the Texas businessman’s plan is to turn the 118-year-old lighthouse into a bed and breakfast.
It’s a plan that has already worked out well at another SouthCoast lighthouse, but there’s no guarantee Butler Flats will have a similar outcome.
“All lighthouses are different and come with their own Pandora’s Box. Once you’ve opened it, you have no idea what you got yourself into,” said Nick Korstad, owner of the Borden Flats Lighthouse in Fall River.
When the federal government passed the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000 that allows them to be offered for sale to the general public (after nonprofits get first crack), Korstad fell in love with the idea of purchasing a lighthouse—despite being just a kid at the time. He purchased the Borden Flats Lighthouse in 2010 and lovingly restored it into a unique bed and breakfast.
Korstad is a lighthouse enthusiast and was interested in the Butler Flats property as well when it first hit the auction block after being deemed “surplus” by the federal government. Like Borden Flats, it is also a “sparkplug”-style structure.
“Butler Flats will be a huge challenge,” said Korstad, who toured Butler Flats with the Government Services Administration in 2012. “It was in very rough condition and very exposed to Buzzards’ Bay. We toured in the first week of September and took the Harbor Master Police boat out. We encountered 10-foot swells and tore the front pontoon off the boat trying to access the ladder. That’s when I said, ‘No thanks!’”
The new owner seems to have money behind him if he’s willing to take on the restoration efforts of Butler Flats, which some estimates put at over $1 million for full restoration. He paid $80,000 for the lighthouse in a November 2015 auction.
“To me, passion exceeds money,” Korstad said. “If you have a drive to accomplish a restoration, the money will come. Butler Flats will not be expensive to ‘cosmetically’ beautify. The cost will come fixing and securing the foundations.”
Korstad said the lighthouse is built upon a cast iron caisson filled with rocks and concrete. The caisson is bolted together and provides protection to the concrete from ice, waves and the elements.
“Unfortunately, the foundation has a lot of fatigue,” he said. “This is caused from corrosion, freeze/thaw and a lack of maintenance. There are places in the foundation where you can fit your hand through, and others that have band-aided. Once the plates fail, it’s a matter of time before cracks will form in the concrete and the lighthouse could potentially tip over if hit with a large enough storm.”
To see more photos of the inside of Butler Flats, check out the work of Frank Grace of Trig Photography here.