Published July 12. 2013 4:00AM
New London's Lighthouse Inn, built in 1906 as a private mansion and transformed into a thriving social landmark before falling on hard times, has the potential to be restored as a treasured institution or continue to crumble from mismanagement and neglect.
We are pleased to see that the city, which now owns the rambling, 51-room hostelry on Guthrie Place not far from Ocean Beach because no one bid on it at a tax auction, has begun taking necessary preservation measures.
Without roof repairs and adequate security to ward off vandals the structure - initially called Meadow Court, the summer residence of turn-of-the-century steel baron Charles Strong Guthrie, and converted to an inn about 1928 - would almost certainly face demolition.
This newspaper also supports plans by Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio to attract potential buyers by offering a tax abatement on the property - as long as city doesn't lose money in the long run. Revenue-starved New London has had a checkered history with such abatements and can ill afford to allow any property owner to avoid taxes for years and then skip town.
Mayor Finizio would have a buyer pay no taxes for five years and 50 percent of the taxes for five years after that, which seems like reasonable terms. We urge the City Council to endorse his plan, because without such an incentive it's unlikely any reputable developer would purchase the property.
This lesson has become painfully obvious in recent years after a succession of owners and bidders with less-than-stellar track records have been associated with the inn, which also had been heavily damaged by fire in 1979.
At that time the community rallied to help raise money to rebuild and reopen the inn.
Considering that the inn's most recent owners, before the city takeover, have been convicted of fraud it seems unlikely the public now will be so eager to jump on a fundraising bandwagon.
New London needs to spend enough money to preserve the integrity of the structure, find the right buyer, and eventually reap the benefits of having a successful, elegant inn and restaurant on its tax rolls.