PAINESVILLE TOWNSHIP, Ohio – Like boats near the shore, the Fairport Harbor West Breakwater Lighthouse caught Sheila Consaul's attention.
"I heard the government was auctioning off lighthouses and I thought that would make a terrific summer house,” Consaul said.
Hoping to find a seasonal escape from work life in Washington D.C., she bought the 92-year-old lighthouse for $71,000 in 2011. Since then, she’s been renovating to make it livable for the first time since a lighthouse keeper last lived here in 1948.
She added additional bedrooms and a kitchen to the house, complete with power from an electric generator.
“All of the large items, the granite, the appliances, the cabinets, they call came by boat,” Consaul said.
The five-story house now has three bedrooms that sleep 10 people, and a dramatic view of Lake Erie’s coastline, including Mentor Headlands and Fairport Harbor. It’s particularly stunning on the Fourth of July.
“Fireworks, you can see at least eight or nine different municipalities,” Consaul said.
The lighthouse is still fully functional, so it lights up at night. It also includes an official weather station. A FOX 8 News viewer captured lightning striking the lighthouse last week.
“The walls are incredibly thick. They're based with steel. There's metal on the outside, thick brick inside. It's not going anywhere,” Consaul said.
However, the home does not have running water. Consaul uses a composting toilet and showers in Lake Erie.
“I never could've predicted it would be this difficult to get running water when you're sitting in the middle of a lake,” she said.
She said one of the biggest challenges is getting to and from the lighthouse, which is a half mile walk from the nearest parking.
“It’s a bit like being a pioneer, carrying my food out here in a backpack. I carry gasoline. I call them the big four: food, water, ice and gas for the generator,” she said.
Consaul said she hosts an annual open house for visitors to tour the lighthouse, typically during the first weekend of June.