|In 1848, local officials erected the first lighthouse on the Cape. The 60-foot structure proved to be so ineffective, by the time ships were close enough to see the light, they were often already upon the very shoals they were trying to avoid.
In 1860, approval to build a 145-foot cast iron tower was given by the Lighthouse Board. Construction was unfortunately halted by the onset of the Civil War. The original tower, along with all other southern lights, was darkened for the duration of the war, by order of the Confederate Secretary of the Navy. After the war, construction of the new tower resumed, although somewhat slowly.
On May 10th, 1868, the new station finally exhibited its powerful, first order Fresnel lens. With a focal plane of 137 feet, mariners could spot the beacon for more than 18 nautical miles.
Beach erosion so seriously threatened the tower, by 1883, only 192-feet separated the lighthouse from crashing waves. Attempts to fight the encroaching ocean with jetties proved futile.
Between 1893 and 1894, the Lighthouse Board dismantled the iron and brick tower and re-erected it 1.25 miles inland. Today it is automated and stands on the grounds of the Kennedy Space Center.
~Sand Key Lighthouse~
A Brief History
The first Sand Key Light was a 60-foot tall brick tower that was build in 1827. The tower was equipped with 14 lamps with 21-inch reflectors and cost $13,500. John Flaherty (formerly keeper at Dry Tortugas) was the first Keeper. After his death in 1832, his wife Rebecca became Keeper. the lighthouse survived the hurricanes of 1835, 1841 and 1842 with minimal damage, but in 1844, a strom removed part of the island, destroyed the dwelling and damaged the seawall. Before the seawall could be replaced, the hurricane of October 10, 1848 struck. The storm washed the island away, collapsing both the new dwelling and the tower in the process. Rebecca Flaherty and five others at the lighthouse were killed.
After the storm, the ship HONEY was purchased and outfitted as a lightship. The lightship marked the site until a new lighthouse was completed in 1853.
The new lighthouse was the second iron pile lighthouse in Florida, and the first lighthouse in Florida to use screw piles. It was designed by I.W.P. Lewis and fabricated in Charleston, South Carolina. Lieutenant Geoge Meade was the engineer in charge of construction. Meade later served in the Civil War and gained fame for leading the Union forces at the crucial Battle of Gettysburg. Iron living quarters on a platform above the base of the tower contained nine equal sized rooms. The new lighthouse was first lit on July 20, 1853. It had cost $126,000.
The new lighthouse was put to the test in 1856 when a hurricane washed all of Sand Key away with no damage to the lighthouse. The lighthouse also survived an 1875 hurricane, but the the decayed condition of the living quarters required their entire replacement at a cost of $20,000.
Fortunately, the weather station employees took refuge in the lighthouse during the storm and there were no injuries.
Sand Key lighhouse was converted to acetylene gas and unmanned around 1932.
In the 1950's it was converted to electricity from batteries. In 1967 the first order Fresnel lens was removed and replaced by a fourth order lens.
~Cape Florida Light~
A Brief History
Cape Florida Lighthouse was first built in 1825 at a cost of $24,000. The brick tower was 65 feet tall. The lighthouse generated many complaints in its early years, with most of the blame centered on the light's first keeper, John Dubose. At one point, Dubose admitted to living in a house on the mainland 5 miles away while his black slave, a woman, kept the lighthouse. After being reprimanded, Dubose returned to the lighthouse.
The area around present day Miami was abandoned in mid 1835 when Seminole Indians massacred the wife and children of William Cooley near present day Fort Lauderdale. The refugees gathered at the Cape Florida Lighthouse for protection before fleeing the area entirely for Key West. Two days later, William Cooley volunteered to return to the lighthouse to restore the light. Dubose finally returned to the lighthouse a few months later.
In July 1835, there were three guards posted at the lighthouse to assist Dubose. Desiring to sail to Key West for supplies, Dubose and one of the men sailed away, leaving John Thompson and Aaron Carter (an elderly black man who was probably a slave) to keep the light.
On the afternoon of July 23, 1836 the lighthouse was attacked by a large group of Seminole Indians. After a drawn out gun battle, the Indians set fire to the wooden door of the lighthouse, forcing Thompson and Carter up to the top of the lighthouse. Forced outside onto the ledge of the lighthouse by the heat and smoke, Carter was killed and Thompson wounded several times in the feet. In an act of desperation, Thompson flung a keg of gunpowder onto the stairs of the lighthouse, hoping to kill himself to avoid further suffering. The blast destroyed the lighthouse's interior wooden stairway, keeping the fire from further injuring Thompson. Thompson feigned death, and the Indians later withdrew.
Thompson was rescued the next day by the crew of a U.S. Navy schooner. To get Thompson down, the sailors fired a ramrod with a piece of string tied to it over the top of the lighthouse. Thompson caught the string and was able to haul a heavier rope to the tower's top. Two seaman hoisted to the top hauled the injured Thompson down. It was later reported that the top of the lighthouse had more than 200 bullet holes in it.
Funds of a new lighthouse were appropriated in 1837, but the continued threat of Indian attacks prevented construction of a new tower until 1846. With continuing complaints about the quality of the light, it's height was increased to 95 feet in 1855. At the same time, a 2nd order Fresnel lens was installed.
The lighthouse suffered again during the Civil War when the center portion of the lens was smashed by three confederate sympathizers on the night of August 21, 1861. The light wasn't relit until 1867.
The lighthouse was discontinued on June 15, 1878 when nearby Fowey Rocks Light was first lit. The tower and property were sold to various private owners the keepers' dwelling eventually washed away.
In the late 1960's the area was slated for development. The state of Florida saved the lighthouse by establishing Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.
The state restored the lighthouse and keeper's dwelling. On June 15, 1978, 100 years after it was extinguished, the U.S. Coast Guard reestablished the light using a glass 375 mm lens.
The condition of the tower deteriorated in the early 1990's to the point were scheduled tours were canceled. Hurricane Andrew on Aug 24, 1992 uprooted most of the trees on the point, but the lighthouse and dwelling survived with only moderate damage.