Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Finally Seeing the Light in Key West

     The schedule has been really hectic for the past month or so, and I'm feeling the energy leaving my body and sleep in the chair instead of getting things done.     So today, I got myself up and started wandering in Old Town Key West looking for something new to write about.       As I left the Southernmost Point and headed down Whitehead Street I saw the spire of the Key West Lighthouse in the distance and  like a beam in the night it gave me an idea.     

     I've told visitor's a thousand times to stop by the lighthouse when you visit Hemingway's House it is right across the street.     Here I've been writing about Hemingway and other historic Key est sites and I've forgotten the lighthouse.

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      The Key West Lighthouse was built in 1847 to aid the ships that navigated the dangerous reef off of Key West.      Key West residents were getting very rich from the salvage business that booming prior to the installation of the lighthouse.     The original light house was 46 feet tall and had 15 oil lamps and a 15 inch reflector, but it was raised to 86 feet tall in 1894.      The lighthouse was built at it's current location after the original lighthouse was destroyed  by the hurricane of 1846.     Today this is the 15th oldest surviving lighthouse in America.    

     Barbara Mabrity took over as the lighthouse Keeper after her husband died in 1832.     She tended the lamps for 32 years until at age 82 she was fired for making statements against the Union, which controlled the Key West and the Key West Lighthouse during the Civil War.     In 1846 a hurricane destroyed the light station, killing 6 of her children after the family sought shelter in the tower.     The original keeper dwelling was torn down and replaced with the present building.

     The Key West Lighthouse was deactivated in 1969, and turned over to Monroe County.     In 1972 the lighthouse was turned over to the Key West Art and Historical Society, who has added safety features and restored the tower and the turned the Keepers Quarters into a museum.     In 1998 the entire site was nominated for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places as a National Landmark.     This gives the Key West Lighthouse the same status as the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. 

     The Key West Lighthouse is open to the public daily and is so worth the walk up the 88 step spiral staircase to look out at the breathtaking scenery that surrounds you.     The story of Barbara Mabrity and her family and the effect that the lighthouse had on the Key West economy of the day makes this a very special place that shouldn't be overlooked when in Key West.     ;o)