Call it the ultimate splurge: When fine jewelry designer Heather B. Moore heard the Cleveland Harbor West Pierhead Lighthouse was up for auction, she and her family decided they had to make the winning bid.
It took multiple weeks of waiting and multiple bids, but on Sept. 6, Moore and her partner Jim Brown had made the biggest and perhaps the most monumental buy of their lives: They were now the proud owners of the Light of the Land, the nickname for the functioning 113-year-old lighthouse that overlooks downtown Cleveland, where Moore lives and works.
“We’re really stewards of the lighthouse, which is an honor,” says Moore, who with Brown will get the keys to the lighthouse in January.
What makes this new acquisition so meaningful to Moore is its location. The lighthouse is near Wendy Park and Wendy Park Bridge, both named for Moore’s sister, who died in 1997 after a skiing accident. Moore’s father, Dan T. Moore III, helped develop the 22-acre park and 500-foot-long bridge on the waterfront that the family feels connected to as longtime residents.
“We love the waterfront. We love the hardworking nature of this city,” Moore says. “This lighthouse is a part of our history, every bit as much as the lake or downtown.”
Moore says she has always been interested in lighthouses. She studied glass casting in college and worked as a glass artist for many years before turning to fine jewelry. During that time, she learned about the Fresnel lens used in lighthouses—so buying one feels like a full-circle moment, says Moore.
She and Brown found about the Cleveland lighthouse auction from Moore’s son Henry, who saw an Instagram post about it. The lighthouse was auctioned by the General Services Administration (GSA), known as the business side of the U.S. government, which raises money through the sale of real estate, boats, aircraft, tools, and other things.
The auction started in early August, and participants had to wait 24 hours after bidding to put in another offer, Moore says. It was a long process, but she and Brown waited it out and prevailed. Moore says the lighthouse needs a lot of work, but everyone in their blended family is willing to help and she hopes to work with Cleveland businesses to fund some of the repairs.
David Mauer, the press contact for Cleveland Harbor West Pierhead Lighthouse LLC, says there is a lot of history to this lighthouse. It was completed in 1910 and automated in 1965. It housed a Coast Guard station until 1976 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
“While it has never officially been open to the public, it’s been used as a photo landmark for decades, especially for weather shots. It completely freezes over with layers of ice in the winter. It’s very dramatic—it looks like an ice castle,” Mauer says. “Despite its age and the disrepair of the buildings, it is still a working lighthouse.”
Mauer says everyone he knows is excited Moore and Brown—the president of Classic Auto Group, an auto dealership business in Cleveland—are the new lighthouse owners.
“They are both Clevelanders down to the bone. Their main purpose was to save it from being bulldozed or turned into a private home or something, like has happened to some other lighthouses. It is an important part of Cleveland’s history and a local symbol of standing up to adversity,” Mauer says. “No matter what, the structures need a lot of work—the floors are completely missing in some areas, for a start.”
Ultimately, Moore says, she’d like to open up the lighthouse for artist residencies and special events such as weddings. But her premier concern was keeping it in local hands. “I want to be able to hold on to these landmarks,” Moore says. “Clevelanders are driven, innovative, solid people. I like to say we are lit from within.
“The lighthouse is symbolic of that, and it’s important that it continues to be into the future.”
Top: The Cleveland Harbor West Pierhead Lighthouse has been purchased in an auction by jewelry designer Heather B. Moore and her life partner, Jim Brown. (Photos courtesy of Heather B. Moore)@jckmagazine
Follow JCK on Twitter: @jckmagazine
Follow JCK on Facebook: @jckmagazine