Quite a lot has happened in the preservation of lighthouses along the Gulf coast of northern Florida since David Cipra’s Lighthouses, Lightships, and the Gulf of Mexico was published in 1997. (Cipra’s book is a comprehensive history of all the lights on the Gulf coast based on extensive archival research.)
According to Cipra’s book, four masonry towers were erected on Cape San Blas between 1848 and 1885 when a skeletal iron tower was completed. The tower was moved several times back from the eroding shoreline before its most recent move to Port St. Joe. See their website for dramatic images of the 2014 move.
Although the final tower at Cape San Blas survived many hurricanes, the tower at Cape St. George did not. Cipra wrote of the 1852 tower being undermined by erosion; however the effects of two subsequent hurricanes and more wave action completely toppled the tower in 2005. The St. George Lighthouse Association salvaged what bricks they could along with pieces of the lantern and reconstructed the tower as the centerpiece of St. George Island. It opened to the public in 2008.
Crooked River Lighthouse was first lit in 1895. It was approaching it’s 100th birthday when the station was deactivated by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1995. When the Coast Guard declared the lighthouse as surplus to their needs four years later, the Carrabelle Lighthouse Association was formed to preserve the lighthouse. After an extensive and meticulous restoration, it is now open to the public. According to Cipra the tower was given its red and white daymark to distinguish it from the surrounding pine forest.
In 2013 the U.S. Coast Guard transferred the St. Marks Lighthouse to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service who are in the planning phases of restoration.
The fifth and final lighthouse on the Panhandle is the Pensacola Light Station. The current tower was erected as a coastal light with a first-order Fresnel lens in 1858. (The current lens was installed around 1869 and continues as an active aid to navigation.) Today you can tour the museum in the keepers’ dwelling and climb the 177 steps to the top of the tower and admire the lens and spectacular view.
All photos by Candace Clifford, January 2015.