Sombrero Key Lighthouse

Marathon, Florida - 1858 (1858**)

Photo of the Sombrero Key Lighthouse.

History of the Sombrero Key Lighthouse

U.S. Coast Guard Archive Photo of the Sombrero Key Lighthouse Sombrero Key Lighthouse (Courtesy CG)

The Sombrero Key lighthouse was designed by General George Meade. General Meade had recommended several different styles of lighthouses to be built at this point including masonry, an iron structure with a masonry foundation and a completely iron structure. The first two structures proved to be too costly. Meade also knew that an iron structure would be fine due to the other two lighthouses that he already built in the Keys, Carysfort Reef and Sand Key.

Meade had also suggested that the lighthouse be componentized. That way it could be built on shore to make sure all the pieces fit together, then disassembled and taken to the site where it would be put back together. The one thing that wasn't too well know was the effect of seawater on iron. Would it cause it to rust? The English had been conducting a test regarding this matter and had found that a process of galvanizing iron had protected the iron from seawater for over 15 years with no evidence of corrosion. Meade had lined up a company in Philadelphia to have the galvanizing work done.

The lighthouse was under construction when a hurricane slammed into the Keys in 1856. This left the construction site in a state of disrepair. Meade once again started over and by March of 1858 the light at Sombrero Key was emanating through its 1st-order Fresnel. Joseph Bethel was appointed as the head keeper of Sombrero Key.

Directions: This lighthouse is at mile marker 50 off US1 on Marathon Key. However, this one you have to head off of US1. In the town of Marathon, you will make a left onto Route 931 (Sombrero Key Road). You will have to follow this road for about 2 miles or so to a park. It is from here that you will see the Sombrero Key Lighthouse. This lighthouse sits off-shore, so I used a 1000mm telephoto lens to get the shot that I have.

View more Sombrero Key Lighthouse pictures
Tower Information
Tower Height: 160.00'
Focal Plane: 142'
Active Aid to Navigation: Yes
*Latitude: 24.62800 N
*Longitude: -81.11100 W
See this lighthouse on Google Maps.


* Please note that all GPS coordinates are approximated and are meant to put you in the vicinity of the lighthouse, not for navigation purposes.

** This year denotes a station date. This is the year that a lighthouse was first reported in the vicinity or at that location.

All photographs and information on this site is copyright © 2016 Bryan Penberthy unless otherwise specified. No content may be used without written permission. Any questions or comments, please email me.