A judge has ruled in favor of the government in a dispute over ownership of two antique lighthouse lenses purchased and restored by a local man.

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 lenses from the Spring Point Ledge lighthouse in Maine and the Belle Isle lighthouse in Detroit. The recent court decision means Gronow must surrender the lenses. He calls it a "huge disappointment." 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. The legal battle has been lengthy and both parties had competing motions for summary judgment but Federal Judge Mark Goldsmith said Monday that the government never gave up ownership, even if the lenses changed hands over the years.

Federal court records and interviews describe a decades-long hunt for the lenses and Gronow as a wealthy man whose hobby is finding maritime antiques, occasionally in war zones. Gronow’s home contains a private collection of maritime antiques, which he has dubbed the Maritime Exchange Museum (pictured). Gronow earlier told The Detroit News “it’s interesting now that because someone had the forethought to care for the lenses all these years — instead of smashing them to bits — that the government is coming out of the shadows and demanding they be returned without compensation”. Members of the lighthouse community say 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.

The recent court opinion and order is attached. (JM)