A wealthy New Jersey businessman bought the island of Key West from a Juan Salas for $2000 in 1821. He had plans to turn this island into a major wrecking / salvaging center due to the alarming number of shipwrecks that occurred around the Florida Keys. John Simonton, the businessman, also wrote to the Secretary of Navy stating that Key West would make a good port city and salvage center. About 5 months later, the President of the U.S. declared a port of entry and a Navy base wasn't too far off. After the Navy base was built, the Secretary of Navy ordered Commodore David Porter to report to Key West to fight the rampant piracy.
The next step to increasing shipping traffic was to built a lighthouse to help mariners navigate. After careful consideration, Porter had recommended Whitehead Point on Key West. The lighthouse was built in 1826, and remained in active duty for about 20 years when a hurricane washed it away. The new Key West lighthouse was to be built on higher ground at a different location.
It was finished by 1848 and stood only fifty feet tall. The lighthouse was constantly being upgraded. In 1873, a third-order Fresnel lens was purchased and installed into the tower. In 1886, the keeper's quarters was in such bad shape that the Lighthouse Board had recommended a new keeper's quarters be built. In 1891, several new buildings were added to the light station. These included a kitchen / storeroom combo and an oil house. It was also at this point that the tower was raised to 86 feet.
In 1987, the lighthouse was restored to how it looked in 1895. By 1990, the keeper's quarters was finished and returned to its 1895 look as well. The whole lightstation is open to visitors. The tower is open for climbing and the quarter's is refurbished to give visitors a look into turn-of-the-century lighthouse keeper's lives. Admission is $8.00 for adults, slightly less expensive for children.
Directions: The lighthouse is located in the center of Key West at the intersection of Whitehead Street and Truman Ave. The exact address is 938 Whitehead Street.View more Key West Lighthouse pictures