One of the few lighthouses located in the midst of a city, but at least it’s safe from battering waves.
Like so many Florida lights, this is not the first one here. A 65 foot (20 m) tower was built in 1825 but it was destroyed by the Great Havana Hurricane of 1846.
Finished in 1848, the current light started service at a height of 50 foot (15 m) on land that was about 15 foot (5 m) above sea level, one of the highest points (!) on the island of Key West. The light was improved with the addition of a third order Fresnel lens in 1858.
The tower increased in height twice. Firstly, in 1873 a damaged lantern replacement added 3 feet and in 1894 it grew another 20 feet to a final height of 73 foot (22 m) to keep it taller than other buildings and trees. The island was going through a growth spurt at this time – in the 1890s Key West had a largest population of any Florida city.
The light was decommissioned by the US Coast Guard in 1969 and ownership transferred to Monroe County. The Key West Arts and Historical Society operates the light and the property as the Key West Light House and Keeper’s Quarters Museum.
The property is tucked into an old and historic residential neighborhood filled with lush tropical vegetation which means the light is nearly hidden until you’re nearly on top of it. While there is many historic and interesting places to visit in Key West, the light should be high on the list of most visitors.