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United States District Court
Eastern District of Michigan
Southern Division
United States of America,
Plaintiff,

Hon.

v.

Civil No.

Maritime Exchange Museum and
Steven J. Gronow,
Defendants.

Complaint
Plaintiff United States of America, by its attorneys, Barbara L. McQuade,
United States Attorney, and Laura Anne Sagolla, Assistant United States Attorney,
hereby alleges:
1. This action seeks a declaratory judgment that the United States of America is
the owner of a fifth order flasher Fresnel lens formerly used in the Spring
Point Ledge Lighthouse in Portland, Maine (the “Spring Point Lens”) and
currently in the possession of the Maritime Exchange Museum (“the
Exchange”), in Howell, Michigan. This action also seeks a judgment for
possession of the Spring Point Lens.
2. This action seeks a declaratory judgment that the United States of America is
the owner of a fixed fourth order Fresnel lens formerly used in the Belle Isle

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Lighthouse on the Detroit River in Michigan (the “Belle Isle Lens”) and
currently in the possession of the Exchange. This action also seeks a
judgment for possession of the Belle Isle Lens.
Parties
3. Plaintiff is the United States of America, acting on behalf of the United States
Coast Guard (“USCG”), an agency of the executive branch of the federal
government.
4. The Exchange is an entity owned by Steven J. Gronow, operating in the State
of Michigan. The Exchange’s physical address and mailing address is 3800
Chilson Road, Howell, Michigan. The Spring Point Lens is in the
Exchange’s possession. The Belle Isle Lens is in the Exchange’s possession.
Jurisdiction and Venue
5. This Court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1345.
6. As the Defendants are located in this judicial district and the lenses that are
the subject of this action are situated in this judicial district, venue is proper
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1391(b).

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Fresnel Lenses
7. French physicist and engineer Augustin-Jean Fresnel (1788-1827) originally
developed Fresnel lenses for use in lighthouses. The design revolutionized
lighthouse optics. Before the invention of the Fresnel lens, the brightest
lighthouse could be seen from 8-12 miles away. The light from a Fresnel
lens could shine more than 20 miles away.
8. Resembling giant beehives, the lenses consist of a system of multi-faceted
glass prisms mounted in a brass framework. The prisms are held in the brass
framework by litharge, a lead-based putty. The prisms reflect and refract
light and magnify it, taking rays of light that would normally scatter in all
directions and focusing them into a single beam. The Fresnel lens design was
thinner and lighter than then-conventional lenses, permitting greater light
intensity by capturing more oblique light.
9. Fresnel lenses are extremely fragile and expensive to repair. Their cleaning
and maintenance are very labor intensive. For these reasons, among others,
most of the Fresnel lenses in the United States have been removed from
lighthouses. Many are preserved in museums.
10. Fresnel lenses are divided into six orders. The order is determined by the
distance from the flame to the lens, with the 1st order lenses being the largest.
First order lenses can be 12 feet in height and more than six feet in diameter.
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First order lenses were primarily used as seacoast lights. The sixth order is
the smallest lens, measuring approximately one-foot wide and used in
harbors and channels.
The Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse and Lens
11. On September 13, 1895, the United States of America purchased the land for
the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse from the State of Maine.
12. Construction of the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse was completed in 1897.
13. The Spring Point Lens, a Fifth Order Fresnel lens, was manufactured in 1896
by Henry-Lapaute.
14. The United States of America purchased the Spring Point Lens from HenryLapaute for the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse. The Spring Point Lens was
installed in the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse in 1897.
15. The Spring Point Lens is marked with the serial number marker “H.L. 331.”
16. A document entitled “Description of Spring Point Ledge Light Station State:
Maine,” dated May 1, 1935, was prepared by the United States Department
of Commerce, Lighthouse Service on or around May 1, 1935. All property
listed in this document, was, as of May 1, 1935, property of the United States
of America.

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17. The “Description of Spring Point Ledge Light Station State: Maine” includes
the Spring Point Lens identified as a Fifth Order lens marked with serial
number H.L. 331.
18. In 1960, the USCG automated the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse and
removed the Spring Point Lens.
19. Work Order 60-3275 to automate the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse states
that “[a]ll aids to navigation equipment and material that has been
discontinued by action of this work order . . . shall be returned to
C[oast]G[uard] Base, S. Portland.”
20. Pursuant to the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 1996, the USCG
transferred ownership of the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse to the Spring
Point Ledge Light Trust in or around 1998.
21. The Coast Guard Authorization Act of 1996 states that the USCG “shall
retain all right, title, and interest of the United States in and to any historical
artifact, including any lens or lantern, that is associated with the lighthouses
conveyed under this subsection, whether located at the lighthouse or
elsewhere.” The quitclaim deed transferring ownership of the Spring Point
Ledge Lighthouse from the United States of America to the Spring Point
Ledge Light Trust contains similar language.

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The Belle Isle Lighthouse and Lens
22. On April 6, 1881, the United States of America purchased land on Belle Isle,
Michigan from the State of Michigan for the Belle Isle Lighthouse.
23. Construction of the Belle Isle Lighthouse on the southeast part of the island
occurred in 1881.
24. The Belle Isle Lens is a Fourth Order Fresnel lens, manufactured in 1880 by
Barbier & Fenestre.
25. The Belle Isle Lens is marked with the serial number marker “B.F. 63.”
26. The United States of America purchased the Belle Isle Lens from Barbier &
Fenestre for the Belle Isle Lighthouse. The Belle Isle Lens was installed in
the Belle Isle Lighthouse in or around 1881. It was placed in operation in
1882.
27. The original Belle Isle Lighthouse consisted of a square, redbrick tower with
an attached two-story brick dwelling. The lighthouse displayed the Barbier
& Fenestre Fresnel lens from the southeast point of the island.
28. A document entitled “Description of Buildings, Premises, Equipment, Etc. at
Belle Isle Light-Station, Michigan,” dated March 27, 1909, was prepared by
the United States Department of Commerce, Light-House Establishment, on
or around March 27, 1909. All property listed in this document, was, as of
March 27, 1909, property of the United States of America.
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29. The “Description of Buildings, Premises, Equipment, Etc. at Belle Isle LightStation, Michigan” includes the Belle Isle Lens identified as a Fourth Order
lens, manufactured by Barbier and Fenestre and marked with serial number
B.F. 63.
30. The Belle Isle Lighthouse was decommissioned in 1930 at the time of the
installation of the William Livingstone Memorial Lighthouse less than one
mile away, on the northeast part of the island.
31. The William Livingstone Memorial Lighthouse was a tribute to prominent
Great Lakes shipper William Livingstone. It is said to have been designed by
Albert Kahn and constructed of marble. It was first lit on April 8, 1930.
32. The Belle Isle Lighthouse was demolished in 1943 when a new coast guard
facility, Station Belle Isle, was built at the same site.
Possession of Lenses by the Exchange
33. In or about 2009, the USCG’s Curator, Arlyn Danielson, who is responsible
for the accounting and care of USCG historic assets, uncovered information
indicating that the defendant Exchange possessed the Spring Point Lens and
the Belle Isle Lens.
34. The lenses were listed on the Exchange’s website on December 23, 2009 as
available for sale, but have since been removed from that website.

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35. The lenses have been listed by the Exchange on other marketplaces as
available for sale.
36. On February 4, 2010, USCG Curator Danielson mailed a letter to the
Exchange requesting official government documentation regarding the
museum’s transactions related to the Spring Point Lens and the Belle Isle
Lens. No response to this letter was received.
37. Despite USCG guidance to refrain from moving the lenses, Defendants
delivered the lenses to the office of Defendants’ attorney in Northville,
Michigan on November 26, 2014. The lenses were returned to the Exchange
sometime in late 2015 or early 2016.
38. The Exchange has refused to comply with all requests to return the lenses to
the United States of America.
39. Due to the historical significance, high value, and fragility of Fresnel lenses,
the USCG Curatorial Service has a policy governing the display of Fresnel
lenses by museums. The policy requires the lenses to be displayed in museum
settings with appropriate insurance, security, environmental controls,
ultraviolet protection, and barriers to prevent unauthorized handling.
40. Due to the historic significance, high value, and fragility of Fresnel lenses,
the USCG must preapprove and authorize the packing and transporting of

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Fresnel lenses, and such work must be performed by a USCG approved
lampist.
41. The United States of America is unable to determine the adequacy of the
lenses’ current storage environment as they are currently crated, and
presumably packaged inside the crates, and this crating and packing was not
preapproved by USCG and was not performed by a USCG approved lampist.
42. The transporting of the lenses on November 26, 2014 was not preapproved or
authorized by USCG and was not performed by a USCG lampist, and the
relocating was performed by Defendants without advance knowledge of or
concern for the adequacy of the storage environment.
43. The exact value of the lenses is unknown, but USCG estimates value the
Spring Point Lens at $250,000 and the Belle Isle Lens at $350,000. As the
lenses are historical artifacts, each is irreplaceable.
Count 1
Declaratory Judgment (Spring Point Lens)
44. The United States re-alleges paragraphs 1 through 43.
45. The Spring Point Lens is the personal property of the United States and is
under the administrative control of the Commandant, USCG.
46. The Exchange does not have any agreement with the USCG allowing the
museum to possess the Spring Point Lens.
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47. The United States is entitled to a declaratory judgment that the Spring Point
Lens is the property of the United States and the Exchange has no right to
possess it.
Count 2
Replevin (Spring Point Lens)
48. The United States re-alleges paragraphs 1 through 47.
49. The United States is the owner of the Spring Point Lens, an independent
piece of property.
50. The Exchange does not lawfully possess the Spring Point Lens.
51. The Exchange has illegally retained possession of the Spring Point Lens,
which rightfully belongs to the USCG.
52. The Exchange is not properly insuring, conserving, protecting or securing the
Spring Point Lens.
53. The Exchange has moved the Spring Point Lens, which may have already
damaged it and increased the risk of future damage to it.
54. The Exchange previously utilized various marketplaces in an attempt to
dispose of the Spring Point Lens.
55. The Spring Point Lens is an irreplaceable historic artifact of great beauty that
has an estimated monetary value of $250,000.

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56. The United States seeks a Judgment and Order directing the return of the
Spring Point Lens to the USCG’s possession and control, and directing that
all costs and expenses of recovering and transporting it be taxed against the
Defendants.
Count 3
Declaratory Judgment (Belle Isle Lens)
57. The United States re-alleges paragraphs 1 through 56.
58. The Belle Isle Lens is the personal property of the United States and is under
the administrative control of the Commandant, USCG.
59. The Exchange does not have any agreement with the USCG allowing the
Exchange to possess the Belle Isle Lens.
60. The United States is entitled to a declaratory judgment that the Belle Isle
Lens is the property of the United States and the Exchange has no right to
possess it.
Count 4
Replevin (Belle Isle Lens)
61. The United States re-alleges paragraphs 1 through 60.
62. The United States is the owner of the Belle Isle Lens, an independent piece of
property.
63. The Exchange does not lawfully possess the Belle Isle Lens.
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64. The Exchange has illegally retained possession of the Belle Isle Lens, which
rightfully belongs to the USCG.
65. The Exchange is not properly insuring, conserving, protecting or securing the
Belle Isle Lens.
66. The Exchange has moved the Belle Isle Lens, which may have already
damaged it and increased the risk of future damage to it.
67. The Exchange previously utilized various marketplaces in an attempt to
dispose of the Belle Isle Lens.
68. The Belle Isle Lens is an irreplaceable historic artifact of great beauty that
has an estimated monetary value of $350,000.
69. The United States seeks a Judgment and Order directing the return of the
Belle Isle Lens to the USCG’s possession and control, and directing that all
costs and expenses of recovering and transporting it be taxed against the
Defendants.
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff United States prays that judgment be entered,
declaring that the lenses are the property of the United States, that the Exchange be
ordered to return the lenses to the USCG’s possession and control immediately,
and that the United States be reimbursed by the Defendants for the costs and
expenses of recovering and transporting the lenses.

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Respectfully submitted,
Barbara L. McQuade
United States Attorney
s/ Laura Anne Sagolla
Laura Anne Sagolla (P63951)
Assistant United States Attorney
211 W. Fort St., Ste. 2001
Detroit, MI 48226
(313) 226-9774
laura.sagolla@usdoj.gov
Dated: September 6, 2016

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