Scenic USA - Florida
Cape Canaveral Lighthouse
|Photos by Ben Prepelka
Scenic USA Artist Website
The Cape Canaveral Lighthouse, having undergone a total refurbishment in 2006-07, was offline for more than a year. Just like any other renovation project, the restoration process uncovered more damage and corrosion than anticipated. The additional work, including refurb of the original copper roof and lamp room, added six months to the task and increased total costs. Additional site work continued during subsequent years, removing particles of lead, barium, arsenic and PCB contaminants from the soil around the lighthouse.
Today's lighthouse is the second to mark the dangerous shoals off the eastern coast at Cape Canaveral. The first lighthouse was built in 1848 and proved to short in height and the beacon too dim to adequately protect maritime interests. During this period, Florida pioneer Mills O. Burnham moved from Vermont. The former gunsmith finally settled in the Indian River area in 1843. Mechanically skilled, Burnham was appointed head light keeper at the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse in 1853. For his part in protecting the key elements of the lighthouse during the Civil War, Burnham was rewarded with the position of head light keeper for life.
The second lighthouse was built shortly after the Civil War and by 1890 the 150 foot tower was threatened by beach erosion. A marvelous engineering feat at the time, the light station was moved one section at a time by mule a mile inland. Reassembled at its present location in 1894, the brick lighthouse was protected by exterior iron plates. Its beam shines approximately 22 nautical miles and continues to be a working navagational aid. Now relying on modern optics, its 1st order Fresnel lens was removed after being slightly damaged during a rocket launch and is now on display at the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse Museum.
Once a lonely sentinel along the Atlantic Coast, today’s lighthouse is one of a dozen towering structures along the Cape Canaveral shoreline. During the mid 1900s, the lighthouse began sharing the beach with Air Force rocket launch complexes. Air Force rockets, mainly the Atlas, continue making routine flights into space today. The only lighthouse in America operated by the United States Air Force, the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse is nearing its 150 year anniversary. Because of its location on restricted property, visiting the lighthouse is now part of a Cape Canaveral history tour. The tour bus leaves the Exploration Tower in Port Canaveral at 8:30 am on Fridays and Saturdays. A stop at the lighthouse allows visitors enter the lighthouse for a rare look at this historic tower.
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