New owner wants to preserve, share light tower

By on October 5, 2012

Diamond Shoals station was sold for $17,200. (GSA)

One of the more unusual deals in the history of Outer Banks real estate closed this week, when a Minnesota businessman signed off with the federal government on the purchase of the Diamond Shoals Light Tower.

Dave Schneider, president & CEO of Zap Water Technology of Richfield, Minn., says he hopes to restore the light tower 13 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras in the Atlantic Ocean to become a research facility for new technologies and available for the public to visit.

“This light station needs to be restored to it’s original beauty … have you seen what a beauty she was when first opened? … and again be placed into use to do great things again,” Schneider said.

Scheinder’s long-term plan is to open the station to a host of uses, from research and development of new technologies, marine biology and ocean sciences, to product testing for fishing and diving equipment and eco-tourism.

“I guess you could call it a wish for a quasi-environmental/technology center,” Scheinder said.

Zap Water Technology Inc. was the only bidder in a Government Services Administration auction that concluded Aug. 31, placing a $17,200 bid.

According to Zap Technology’s website, the company uses an electrochemical process with salt and water to make an FDA-approved non-toxic sanitizer/cleaner for home and business use.

Dave Schneider, new owner of the Diamond Shows light station

Dave Schneider.

“The GSA did not allow a site visit, so I had to rely on the Coast Guard Inspection documents from 2010,” Schneider said.

In fact, Schneider has never even visited the Outer Banks. But he plans to come around mid-November to see the Light Tower for the first time.

“I need to inspect, budget and hopefully find some interested technology partners to assist in the restoration,” Schneider said.

The Diamond Shoals Light Tower is an oil drilling platform, known as a “Texas Tower,” on top of four steel legs that was modified to be used as a lighthouse.

The platform consists of two floors, with a living area of about 5,000 square feet that includes five bedrooms, a kitchen, office, storage area, recreation area and toilet facilities.

The auction listing said the platform in its current condition cannot support a helicopter landing, and the ladder from the ocean surface to the light tower has been destroyed.

Corrosion has destroyed some of the metal decking. (GSA)

The inspection report by the Coast Guard estimates repairs to the tower would cost at least $2.3 million.

The light tower was built in Louisiana and brought by barge to Diamond Shoals in 1966. Prior to the light tower, light ships had marked the shoals for about 100 years.

“This structure is an iconic part of North Carolina’s and the Atlantic’s history,” Schneider said. “The light station is a marvel to engineering, and was critical to the safety of shipping and ocean travels when it was in service.”

“There are over 1,000 ship wrecks in that area,” Schneider said. “Think how many more there could have been if not for this light station and the light ships that preceded it?”

But the 56-year-old single father of two admits that progress will be slow on restoring the Light Tower.

“I am hoping there are many more dreamers like me, that want to see a great facility like this to be used for a better cause,” said Schneinder.

The recreation room. (GSA)

“I will need to organize to get the basic work that needs to be done: sanding, welding, hammering, washing, installing, painting and polishing. So I’m hoping I can find some crazies like me to volunteer to do some of the grunt work with me,” Schneider said.

Its not the first time someone has taken on the task of restoring a light tower in the waters off North Carolina.

Frying Pan Shoals Light Tower, off the tip of Cape Fear on the southeast coast, was purchased in 2009 and has been turned into a bed and breakfast that is now accepting reservations.

“Obviously my company, which is introducing some new green technologies to the marketplace, will have a big place here. Since the basic elements of the technology is water, salt, and electricity, it fits well,” said Schneider.

“I think that everyone should have access to the facility. This is a part of this area’s history,” Schneider said. “I am sure there are many, many people from the Outer Banks that have always wondered about the station. Hopefully I will be able to give them a chance to see it.”

“I am hoping when I can get it more ‘civil,’ that we can maybe have a ‘deck party’ and get to meet the neighbors,” Schneider said.

Scheinder is realistic about the environment the tower is in, and the long road he faces in bringing it back to life.

“This is a very dangerous and unpredictable location … access is very difficult … Remember it is the Graveyard of the Atlantic!” Schneider said.

“So along with learning the ‘big water,’ I need to learn the basics of all the stuff to make this place happen: wind turbines, solar power, desalination,” Schneider said. “And I have to brush up on some old skills like welding, building, plumbing.”

“I’m sure you’re getting two schools of thought (around there). Either this is the greatest thing in the world, or its the craziest thing in the world.”

You can listen below to Sam Walker’s conversation with Schneider:

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Comments

Roy Munson

December 17, 2012 1:55 pm

This is a very historic project to undertake. I remember when some folks said the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse would collapse if moved too! Remember?
On another note:
Michael Vickery’s quote” Government and unions didn’t make this country great”? Sir, I can’t speak for the government but unions had everything to do with making this a great country with SAFE working conditions! Wake up! The ole Romney Card again? Really? Old news…..

Faye

December 10, 2012 6:21 pm

I’d love to see more up-to-date pics since Sandy hit and good luck to you.

Tom from Owatonna

October 18, 2012 8:52 am

I’m a Minnesotan too and wish you the best of luck. I continuously have my eye out for just the right lighthouse purchased adventure and I even named my dog a Golden Retriever “Hatteras” after the “Cape Hatteras” Lighthouse. While along these Outer Banks you should make an attempted to visit this Cape Hatteras Lighthouse along with that you should visit Bodie Island Lighthouse, Cape Lookout Lighthouse (one I need to visit yet), Currituck Beach Lighthouse, Ocracoke Lighthouse, Roanoke Marshes [Replica], Lighthouse, and both Roanoke River lighthouses are all within day travel distances from the Outer Banks. Go to http://www.lighthousefriends.com for more information and locations and contact the publisher of this site, you can’t go wrong there. As someone wrote have some kind of feature to sale and install around the lighthouse to gain funds as well as actual products you can use. Looking at the picture I would suggest floor tile with the name inscribed by donated patrons. Love this and again best of luck!

Jim Rosenthal

October 13, 2012 8:29 pm

For every dreamer, there are a thousand scoffers. Not all the dreamers get to fulfill their dream. But you can BET that NONE of the scoffers do.

I’m going to volunteer. I can sand and paint at least. I would like to be a “plank owner” in the restored offshore tower, and I don’t mind paying my own way to do it.

Tracy Flick

October 12, 2012 11:01 pm

I am so happy to learn that someone purchased the Diamond Shoals Light House. I have admired this many times when heading out to fish for the day. This is a piece of history! If Dave Schneider had not purchased this property, I hate to think would could have happened to it. Mr. Schneider had the courage to take on this task to hopefully to make it useful and preserve for our future generation.
Thank your Mr. Schneider for embarking on this unknown journey. Don’t let any road blocks stop you from meeting your goal in preserving and restoring this wonderful piece of history.
God Bless

Dave Schneider

October 9, 2012 5:04 pm

Hello Everyone,

Dave Schneider here (I bought the Diamond Shoals Light Station). I appreciate all the comments, good and bad—that’s why they allow comments. We must keep an open mind. For those who are serious about helping out–you can contact me through the Zap Water Technology, Inc website. Help can come in many ways; well wishes, constructive input, suggestions, ideas, and helping hands. We are not at the place to need volunteers yet, but will keep the information for when it is needed. I am hoping the future allows us all to have a conversation while sitting 13 miles off shore and appreciating what was accomplished! Hope to see all you there!

Best Regards to Everyone!

Dave

Rod Tozour

October 9, 2012 1:32 pm

Leon,

Was at Hatteras CG in the 60s and only visited Diamond Shoals once. I know your name but can’t place you. Was at the old Oregon Inlet station and Buxton Group office under Hope Beacham and Leanord Quidley. Also with alot of other locals that I still see 45 years later. Do you still live on Hattersas.

Rod

Hippie John

October 9, 2012 11:00 am

Dave,

Way to go! I hope you can pull this off, you have great ideas and concepts to put in play here!

Allan

October 9, 2012 9:13 am

Go for it man. I have been out there, seen the tower and dreamed the same dream. But I lack the money, ability and the balls to pull something off like this.
Godspeed Dave.

Ian Thompson

October 8, 2012 6:11 pm

Hey Dave,
Congratulations! I will be more than happy to be one of those crazy volunteers. I will even shuttle out fellow volunteers on my vessel! Let’s work hard and have some fun!

Parc

October 8, 2012 6:04 pm

I’ll volunteer some time. Where do I sign up. Will there be hotdogs?

obxcarl

October 8, 2012 9:42 am

I’m in!!! I have a UL Chief engineer papers and Captains papers. I was union but retired now. The guy isn’t demanding anything. He’s just asking for help. Sounds fun and it’s his money so who cares how he spends it.

roanokeislander

October 8, 2012 8:31 am

good luck! i hope it works out.

Frank Castano

October 8, 2012 6:39 am

Dave “Go for it!” A positive attitude will always win! Remember Walt Disney was told he was “nuts” when he purchased land in the swamps of Florida. And way to go on the “Single Father” raising two kids! Good Luck!

Debbie Welch

October 7, 2012 11:23 pm

He paid a price to fullill a dream. Where were all the nayesayers? Put up the money & it could have been yours, but no, they just were hacking on the computer & trashing someone who actually did something. Way to go Dave!! I’m a with you & your dream!!

Dave Supporter!

October 7, 2012 3:24 pm

Such an amazing and inspiring story. Let the man do what he wants to do! It’s not harming anyone and would just be sitting there rotting without him!

David Perrot

October 7, 2012 9:29 am

They all said the Wright Brothers were crazy dreamers too! Way to go Dave!

Michael Vickery

October 6, 2012 1:02 pm

I am a volunteer for the Frying Pan Tower. The experience of going there, the excitement of the adventure, the understanding of what it is that we are doing to restore a part of history is worth more than “union wages”. Yes, Romney would enjoy this because it demonstrates the entrepreneurial spirit and imagination that built this country and the willingness to take a risk to achieve something great. Government and unions didn’t make this country great. It was the spirit, determination and achievements of people with imagination and the testicular fortitude to get it done. I’m doing it. And I’ll help The Diamond as well.

Gerald

October 6, 2012 12:30 pm

To all the naysayers at least he is trying to do something positive. If not for him it would just rust into the ocean. Maybe he will be successful maybe not but it’s the only chance the structure has for survival so I say GOOD FOR YOU DAVE!

Lee

October 6, 2012 9:15 am

Go for it Dave!!! I am not skilled but would contribute to this cause remembering those who have been and thoughts of those who will be saved in this most treacherous area. I say to beacheye and those of little faith to bring on the martians and all who are interested in any method of contribution to see this project to completion and continued maintenenace. This tower would then be available for anyone to enjoy and be around for future genertions to enjoy, learn, and use. Dreams do come true.

Leon Scarborough

October 6, 2012 6:43 am

I was the first Officer-in-charge of this tower. I was with it from the time it was started until it was commissioned. It was not built in Louisiana but by Tide water construction Norfolk VA.

johnr

October 5, 2012 9:15 pm

Thank God for right-to-work states. It’s also comforting that only about 7% of private-sector jobs are unionized. What’s wrong with asking for volunteers to help with this project?

Frank

October 5, 2012 8:41 pm

Stay up north then skilled union iron worker! No one as ked for you to volunteer. I’m sure there are plenty of people willing to give their time to see this thru. I would love to help out any way I can!

Richard Neal

October 5, 2012 6:33 pm

Dave is a pretty common sense guy and the gov’t examination done on both of our towers was extremely conservative with my tower’s helipad structure in near perfect shape. Just because he is enthusiastic doesn’t mean he is ignorant of the issues and challenges that he faces. I received similar opinions a couple years ago and now have 5,000 Facebook friends, almost 200 volunteers and a dozen or so captains ready to carry work crews out to work n play.

Join us, be part of the adventure and live life large!

Capt. G.

October 5, 2012 6:12 pm

Here’s to the dreamers! Good Luck Dave!

Cynthia

October 5, 2012 6:07 pm

I pray I get to see this in my lifetime!

Skilled Union Ironworker

October 5, 2012 5:18 pm

It’s not enough that North Carolina is a “right to work” state with all that that implies as far as lowering wages and benefits, but this guy is looking for volunteers in an obviously hazardous situation.

He’s not even willing to pay sub-market rates for unskilled tradesman to work for him; he demands volunteers. Romney would love this!!!

Jason

October 5, 2012 4:34 pm

If he pulls it off, I’m all for it. Best wishes to you man, that tower is an interesting place.

And beacheye, I’d happily volunteer my time out there fixing it, it’s right up my alley. It’s not everyday you get to work on a tower out in the middle of the ocean.

Ross

October 5, 2012 3:06 pm

I’m crazy enough to help out, sounds like an awesome project!

Faye

October 5, 2012 12:32 pm

I am so glad that someone is actually doing something with this piece of history that would have been lost if he had not come forward. Good show, Dave Schneider

Steve

October 5, 2012 11:38 am

Great vision for the site. I will support and help all I can. However, that the structure can be rehabilitated at
all is a big question. The support structure is compromised at best and cannot be ‘fixed’ just replaced.
Also, the sea-floor under the structure is not included in the sale.Problematic if pilings need replaced.

OBX

October 5, 2012 11:31 am

Well now…an “inlander” with zero experience in the saltwalter environment of open ocean water, buys a decrepit old tower and thinks it will be a palace on the sea. Does he really think the “neighbors” will be beating a path to visit? How long do you suppose it will be before he is demanding Federal grants to restore this “…marvel to engineering…” He wants to throw a “deck party” too…what a guy!

beacheye

October 5, 2012 11:15 am

A full-fledged martian invasion of the Outer banks has a better probability of happening than a succesful restoration of the Diamond Shoals lighthouse by using the plan of “I hope some crazies will want to volunteer.”

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