Port Boca Grande Lighthouse & Museum

19 мая 2014 | Author: | No comments yet »

Doral Boca Grande boat

Port Boca Grande Lighthouse Museum

In 1888, the U.S. Congress allocated $35,000 for the U.S. Lighthouse Service to build a lighthouse on Boca Grande Pass, the deepest natural port in the state. The Port Boca Grande Lighthouse was lit December 31, 1890. The light was used to mark Boca Grande Pass, the entrance to Charlotte Harbor (Coast Guard). A second light, the Charlotte Harbor Light, stood within Charlotte Harbor, and a third, Mangrove Point Light, was at the north end of the harbor marking the port of Punta Gorda (Hairr 87-90).

The Port Boca Grande Light is an iron screw pile design with a wood frame. It originally had a 3 ½ order clam-shaped Fresnel lens. According to Dian McKeithan-Miller, light keeper Cody McKeithan’s daughter, “the lens was so beautiful – it opened and closed as it rotated.” The lens is in an octagonal cupola on the peak of the roof. The light itself is integrated into the keeper’s house (Boca Grande). Today, a 5th order drum lens has taken the place of the original lens.

In 1912 the phosphate facility at Port Boca Grande was operational, and ships from around the world came to the island to load phosphate (Hoeckel 28). The phosphate was not shipped in containers; instead it was poured directly into the holds of the ships. As they moved to later ports, cargo was placed on top of the bed of phosphate (Hoeckel 37).

The lighthouse had a succession of keepers. They were:

Frances McNulty (1890-1894)

Charles Henry Williams (1923-1932)

Osmund McKinney (1932-1941)

Code McKeithan (1941-1951)

In 1932, the Gasparilla Island Rear Range Light came into operation on Gasparilla Island. Built in 1885 as the Delaware Breakwater Rear Range Light, it was dismantled in 1921 and shipped to Miami. In 1927 it was shipped to Gasparilla Island and reassembled. It was relit in 1932, and had a companion light, the Front Range Light, in the Gulf of Mexico off of Gasparilla Island. When the two lights lined up, a ship’s navigator knew it was time to turn to enter Boca Grande Pass (Hoeckel 18).

In 1939, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) took over operation of lighthouses from the U.S. Lighthouse Service, and all keepers after that time were members of the USCG. In the case of the Port Boca Grande Light, there was also an Assistant Keeper. The Assistant lived in the building next door to the lighthouse (Trip Through Time).

Doral Boca Grande boat

During WWII, the lighthouse was used to watch for German U-boats. There was a submarine watch tower to the west of the light (WWII). The keeper, Cody McKeithan, kept in touch with the Coast Guard by radio. The radio was kept on the second floor of the lighthouse.

The port was used as a safe harbor at night, with up to 30 ships mooring at the dock to avoid German subs (WWII). While it was not reported at the time, as many as 189 merchant and military ships were sunk by subs in the Gulf of Mexico and the Carribean in 1942, according to the Merchant Marine.

Automation and Abandonment

In 1956 the light was automated, and the era of lighthouse keepers on Gasparilla Island came to an end.

In 1966 the light was deactivated, and by 1968 was essentially abandoned by the Coast Guard (Boca Grande). It fell into disrepair. There was severe erosion of the beach, and by the 1970s the screw piles were exposed. The light began to tilt, and soon was in danger of falling into the pass. In 1972 the light and the land around it were transferred to Lee County. In 1982, when FPL had to dredge the basin of the oil dock next to the lighthouse, they placed the sand around the light, shoring it up. FPL also had two rock groins built in front of the light to help retain the sand (Trip Through Time ).

The lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, and restoration work began in 1985. The restoration, a collaboration of several island groups, was finished in 1986. The new lens was lit, and the Port Boca Grande Light was recomissioned by the Coast Guard as an aid to navigation (Trip Through Time).

In 1988 the lighthouse and the land around it was transferred to the state of Florida, and today the light is the centerpiece to Gasparilla Island State Park. A museum was built inside the lighthouse and opened in 1999 (Trip Through Time). It is one of only six lighthouses in Florida to be open to the public, and the only one on the west coast. Barrier Island Parks Society, a nonprofit Citizen Support Organization, manages and operates the museum (Society). In 2007, the lighthouse won the “Best Looking Lighthouse” award from Florida Monthly Magazine.

Doral Boca Grande boat
Doral Boca Grande boat
Doral Boca Grande boat
Doral Boca Grande boat
Doral Boca Grande boat
Doral Boca Grande boat
Doral Boca Grande boat
Doral Boca Grande boat

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