Judge Orders Local Man to Surrender Antique Lighthouse Lenses
November 21, 2018
A judge has ordered an area man to surrender two antique lighthouse lenses that were the subject of a lengthy legal battle to determine ownership.
Steve Gronow of Genoa Township was the target of a federal lawsuit over the two long missing lenses said to be worth at least $600,000. The government sued Gronow in U.S District Court, saying he had no right to the lenses from the Spring Point Ledge lighthouse in Maine and the Belle Isle lighthouse in Detroit. The Coast Guard says it's still the owner of the lenses. The Maine lighthouse was automated around 1960, and the Detroit lighthouse was replaced in 1930. Gronow bought one lens from an eBay seller and the other from the Henry County Historical Society in Indiana.
In March, Federal Judge Mark Goldsmith said that the government never gave up ownership, even if the lenses changed hands over the years, requiring Gronow to surrender the lenses. He was supposed to turn them over last summer. U.S. Coast Guard officials and a lens expert reportedly went to his mansion recently, but weren't allowed through a gate. Judge Goldsmith says he has no interest in “putting anyone in jail”, but that his orders will not be disobeyed. On Monday he set a new deadline, giving Gronow until February to produce the lenses. While Gronow didn't object, his attorney, James Pelland, did tell the judge that his client wants to be paid for storing the lenses before he gives them up. Goldsmith says that's a separate matter.
Members of the lighthouse community have previously said the Justice Department’s actions against Gronow amount to the bullying of a preservationist who has saved rare treasures that the government once treated like junk after it switched from manually operated lighthouses to automated beacons. Gronow’s home contains a private collection of maritime antiques, which he has dubbed the Maritime Exchange Museum (pictured). (DK/JM)