Monday, October 15, 2007

The Lighthouse in Key West

Lighthouse in a pink evening sky

View from the top to the west where the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico come together. Can you see the big cruise ship in the harbor?

View from the top to Hemingway's house and his wonderful garden

View to the East overlooking the Atlantic

Built in 1847 to aid to ships navigating dangerous reefs off the lower Keys, the Key West Lighthouse now stands sentinel over one of Florida's finest historical sites.

The tower was originally 46 feet high and powered by 15 oil lamps with 15-inch reflectors, but was extended to 86 feet in 1894. Inside visitors now climb 88 iron steps to the observation deck that affords spectacular views.

The tower and nearby Keeper's Quarters have been faithfully restored and maintained as they were before the lighthouse was deactivated in 1969. Many of the historic elements remain, including the pipes used to deliver acetylene gas that powered the light before it was electrified in 1927. The clapboard bungalow where the keepers and their families lived while maintaining the beacon has been recreated in turn-of-the-century style with historic furniture, furnishings and photos that provide a sense of life in Key West during that formative time.

This light station was built after the hurricane of 1846 destroyed the original 1825 tower on the coast. It is the 15th oldest surviving lighthouse in the country.

But as intriguing as the structures themselves are the lives of the keepers who climbed the steps each day to clean and fuel the lamps, especially that of Barbara Mabrity, who took over after her husband died in 1832. She tended the lamps for the 32 years until at age 82 she was fired for making statements against the Union, which controlled Key West and the lighthouse during the Civil War. When a hurricane destroyed the light station in 1846, Barbara Mabrity survived but six of her children were killed after the family sought shelter in the tower. In 1886 the original keeper's dwelling was torn down and replaced with the present building. After its deactivation, the Lighthouse was acquired by Monroe County. In 1972 it was leased to the Key West Art & Historical Society, which added safety features and opened it to the public in 1989. The keeper's quarters were renovated in 1990 and opened as a museum.

In 1998 the lighthouse was nominated for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places as a National Historic Landmark, which would put it in the same category as the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

The 88-step circular iron stairway leading to the lighthouse deck from which much of Key West and the nearby ocean is visible.


Jenty said...

I love the colours in the first photo. Very interesting post.

Susanne in Key West said...

Hi Jenty,

thanks for your comment. This is also one of my pictures, what I'm selling at the pier very well. :-)

Rick said...

Thats a great view Sue. i bet it does do very well. Everyone like lighthouses. St Augustine has a very nice one too. You should check it out when you travel.

Susanne in Key West said...

Hi Rick,
thank you for your kind comment.

I know about St.Augustin and its lighthouse. We were visiting St.Augustin more than once when we had to evacuate from the Hurricanes and we love that place very much!

GAWO said...

Thanks for all the information about the Lighthouse. And the view is great. I have a lighthouse in my blog too. You are welcome to take a look :-)

Michele (Rocky Mtn.Girl) said...

I like the lighthouse photo. What a spectacular structure. I haven't had the luxury to spend too many days near the ocean so this is all very special. The story behind this lighthouse is amazing but sad in some ways. What a great post!

kml said...

Your lighthouse in the first image is so gorgeous! The sky, the angle, and the composition are perfect!

Susanne in Key West said...


thank you so much for writing this nice comment. I will go over to your blog and see your lighthouse. I Love lighthouses! :-)

Susanne in Key West said...

Thank you Michele,

It makes me happy when people like my photography. Thank you so much for your nice comment.

Susanne in Key West said...

Hi Kathy,

I'm so glad you like my "pink" lighthouse. It is one of my "bestsellers" in my little business in the evenings at Mallory Square.

Anna said...

Wow, Susanne, love the light tower, I saw couple here in my area, but not like yours - do you always have to have nicer things, lol (btw you know that I am always joking around). great job. Anna :)

Susanne in Key West said...

Hi Anna,

I like your humor and as I told you already in another answer, some posts ago: I like your refreshing style to make me always smile! You should have 10 of that "Smile award", not just one! :-)

btw, thanks for commenting too! :-)

Titania Starlight said...

You live in such a beautiful area of the country. Simply breathtaking. I enjoy visiting this blog very much.

Susanne in Key West said...

Hi Titania,

Thanks for this comment. I know, this place is a wonderful place, it will be very strange for me when we will leave it one day...

Susie said...

I love the lighthouse, I really I will be able to visit Key West on my trip to Florida.

Susanne in Key West said...

Hi Susie,

Yes, Key West is always worth a trip down. Let me know about when you will be here, o.k.? :-)


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