Scenic USA - Florida
Key West Lighthouse
|Photo by Merrill Miller
Inset photo by Dan Kehlenbach
The Great Havana Hurricane, a powerful late season storm, moved across Cuba toward Florida in early October, 1846. The record-setting gale, approaching Category 5 status, skirted the Florida Keys and the state's west coast, making landfall near Cedar Key.
Fierce winds and a powerful storm surge proved too much for Sand Key and Key West lighthouses, both collapsing and taking
the lives of those seeking refuge inside.
A replacement lighthouse would be built a half-mile inland on the highest point of the island. The new lighthouse, standing fifty feet tall, was completed in 1848. In 1873 a five foot extension was added to the tower so the light would reach past the shallow waters offshore. The addition proved not near tall enough, so another 20 foot section was added a few decades later.
Key West history shows the lighthouse was decommissioned in 1969 and its deed transferred to Monroe County in 1972. Looking to preserve this historic landmark, lighthouse restoration began in 1988, with oversight by the Key West Historical Society. Today, this Whitehead Street attraction is a big part of Key West. Standing as a memorial to Key West’s maritime heritage and successive line of brave light-keepers, Key West visitors are invited to climb 88 steps to the top of the light and explore the keeper's quarters. The lighthouse tower is open daily from 9:30 am to 4:3 pm ... and the view from the top is superb.
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