A Boston developer bid $17.25 million Wednesday to buy the southernmost tip of the continental United States, including Harry S. Truman’s “Little White House.”
The 102 acres of federally owned property includes a 55-acre island just off Key West and the 96-year-old building on a Navy base that was used by Truman as a winter retreat.
About 500 people watched as the bidding started at $5 million and increased by $500,000 a bid. Bidders had to put up a $250,000 cashier’s check to participate.
Indians Offered Bid
Pritam Singh outlasted an Alaskan Indian group, another Massachusetts man, a self-styled captain from Reno, Nev., and a team of Key West residents.
“The reason I wanted to buy the property was to try and retain what I feel is the quality of life in Key West,” said Singh, wearing a blue turban, jeans and army boots.
Local officials had voted to limit development of the land in an effort to stave off proposals to build hotels and condos on the property.
The General Services Administration included a provision that requires the new owner to operate the winter White House as a museum open to the public, a spokesman said.
The purchaser gets 70 buildings, including a hospital built in 1844, plus a chair and silverware used by Truman.
Singh must decide what to do with the 88 tenants using many of the buildings and land. Treasure hunter Mel Fisher rents two buildings on the property, one of which he said houses “several million dollars worth of treasure” brought up from a Spanish galleon that he and his divers discovered last year.