One of the shortest lights in Florida is also the only one that’s really a lighthouse.
The Port Boca Grande Light is mounted on the roof of the lightkeeper’s house. While there were other “lighthouses” in Florida in the past, Boca Grande is the only one still operating. The similarly-designed Cedar Keys Light still stands but was deactivated in 1915. All other lights in Florida reside in towers with the keeper’s house (if any) sitting nearby.
The house sits on iron pilings near the shore on the southern-most point of Gasparilla Island. Next to the house is a nearly identical house that once was the home of the assistant light keeper.
The two houses are frame built two-story structures that are raised off the ground some 10 foot (3 m) to limit flooding. The light is in a cupola at 44 foot (13 m) tall.
The light was activated in 1890 and deactivated in 1966. The US Coast Guard left it to the elements and in the 1970s high tides were coming all the way up to the piles that supported the buildings. There was quite a bit of damage to the houses as well.
Lee County took possession of the site in 1972 and erosion issues were addressed by building the beach further out into the inlet.
1980 saw it placed on the National Register of Historic Places and restoration work began in 1985.
The light was recommissioned in 1986 and 2 years later the state took over the property to create Gasparilla Island State Park. 1999 saw the establishment of the Historic Port Boca Grande Lighthouse and Museum. The Coast Guard maintains the light itself.
The museum, which fills much of the lighthouse, has an interesting narrative of the history of the light, plus information about Gasparilla Island and the various industries that required both this light and the Gasparilla Island Light located further north on the Island.
The houses are beautiful and excellent examples of late 19th century architecture. They include broad porches, working shutters and a widows walk on the cupola.
Climbing up to the light isn’t generally allowed.