Two lights on the same island means one thing – serious navigation was taking place on an island named for a mythical pirate.
Actually, there were three lights connected with Gasparilla Island and the Boca Grande Pass to the south of the island.
The Gasparilla Island Light was one of a pair of “range” lights. The other was located about a mile offshore in the Gulf. That one was the Front Entrance Range Light, while the still existing one was the Rear Entrance Range Light. To navigate, sailors would position their ship so that that the two range lights lined up. That told them it was safe to turn to enter Boca Grande Pass.
The Gasparilla Island Light started its life and service over 1000 miles away as the Delaware Breakwater Range Rear Light. The light was originally built in 1881 and located near Lewes, DE. It was decommissioned in 1918, dismantled and shipped to Florida.
In 1927 it was reassembled on the island, though it didn’t enter service until 1932. Much of its life it was known as the Boca Grande Rear Entrance Range Light. Eventually the front range light was removed and the Rear Range Light became the Gasparilla Island Light.
The tower is a 105 foot (32 m) tall tubular structure with an exoskeleton.
It continued to aid navagation and be maintained by the US Coast Guard. In 2014 it was decommissioned by the Coast Guard and control of the light was given to the Barrier Islands Parks Society in 2016. As of 2018 a replica Fresnel lens was put in and relit.