Coast Guard Giving Away 4 Florida Lighthouses May 7, 2019 17:03:45 GMT -5
Post by Graveyardbride on May 7, 2019 17:03:45 GMT -5
Coast Guard Giving Away 4 Florida Lighthouses
KEY LARGO, Fla. – Once prevalent in New England, the American southeast and Great Lakes regions, because of advanced GPS systems, lighthouses have outlived their usefulness. The question now is what will become of those that remain. In Florida, federal officials are now trying to give them away – for free – but there’s a catch.
The Coast Guard has declared four historic 19th-century lighthouses “excess” to its needs. As a consequence, the Coast Guard is attempting to give them away to eligible entities, such as nonprofit and educational organizations. If these groups reject the offers, lighthouse restoration groups indicate the public will have a chance to purchase the structures at auction. “The Coast Guard’s already done their part,” said Eric Martin, Florida Keys Reef Foundation president. “They said they don't need it anymore. They made sure they were listed on the historic registry. It is now with the General Services Administration. They make the announcement that these are available under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, to other governments or nonprofits.”
What started as a hobby for Martin developed into his life’s work, saving one of the oldest means of navigation in open water. And now he’s looking to save all four historic structures. He said the Lighthouse Act was designed to ensure historic lighthouses are used for educational, recreational or historic preservation purposes. “I started off like most people, as what we call a lighthouse hunter. You look for lighthouses, you take pictures, you climb them if they are open,” he explained. “I eventually became somebody trying to help save and restore lighthouses.”
If organizations such as Martin’s do not get the lighthouses, they will be up for grabs to anyone who can afford them. When lighthouses are purchased by individuals, they sometimes become commercialized and some have even been turned into bed and breakfast inns. “If a private individual is going to buy it, hopefully they have deep pockets because these are estimated to cost between $2 and $3 million to fully restore. It's almost like a business application,” Martin continued. “They are trying to determine, is your plan good enough, will you be able to maintain the light.”
Robert Taylor, a lighthouse enthusiast from Massachusetts, visits lighthouses around the country. His latest stop was in Florida. “Lighthouses are a beacon in the daytime. Of course, you can see the buildings and they are painted up differently. Stripes, checks, brick and wood. In the nighttime, they put lights on them that flash or rotate,” he said. However, he added that the four historic lighthouses may be more difficult to preserve because they are offshore. “Some of these lighthouses are on a rock, 20 miles from the nearest town or land. It’s very hard to get anybody to do anything with those,” he explained. He said the lighthouses are being offered “as is” and “where is.” The lighthouses on the list are”
Alligator Reef Light (Islamorada). This 148-foot cast iron tower with keeper’s quarters and landing dock (above left) is located approximately four miles off Islamorada in what locals say is the second-most-snorkeled spot on the Keys reef. Built in 1873, the light was named in honor of USS Alligator, a Navy schooner that ran aground in 1822 while patrolling for pirates. There are just three words to keep in mind here: Location, location, location.
American Shoal Lighthouse (Sugarloaf Key). Built in 1880, the American Shoal Lighthouse (above right) is about six miles off Sugarloaf Key. The tower is 109-feet-high with keeper’s octagonal quarters on a platform 40 feet above the water. You may recognize this beauty from a 1990 U.S. postage stamp, issued approximately 25 years before the light was deactivated.
Carysfort Reef Light (Key Largo). Located six miles offshore the lovely Carysfort Reef Light (above left) is a 124-foot-tall octagonal tower with two-story keeper’s quarters, complete with landing dock. Built in 1852, it was the oldest functioning lighthouse of its type in the United States before it was deactivated in 2015. It was named for HMS Carysfort (1766), a 20-gun Royal Navy post ship wrecked on the reef in 1770.
Sombrero Key Light (Marathon). A tip of the hat to Sombrero Key Light (above right), located seven miles off Vaca Key. The lighthouse is located on a mostly-submerged reef and began service in 1858. The 142-foot tower has two platforms: the upper, which houses the keeper’s quarters, is 40 feet above the water. The Sombrero Key Light is the tallest lighthouse in the Florida Keys. While the sentinel was deactivated in 2015, the original lens (a first-order Fresnel) is on display in the Key West Lighthouse Museum.
“In most cases, the lighthouses need work. In this case, they definitely need work, and there's no power. There is no fresh water … so you're buying bare-bones on these,” Martin explained.
There are in excess of 400 lighthouses in the United States. Michigan has more than any other state with approximately 130, followed by New York, Maine, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, California and Florida. Recent lighthouse renovation projects have taken place in Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Wisconsin and New Jersey.
Members of lighthouse preservation groups are doing their best to save a part of history that is slowly crumbling into the sea. “It’s part of our civilization and how we got here. We are keeping enough of them going so we won’t forget,” Taylor said. “But unfortunately, you’re probably not going to save all of them.”
Sources: Elina Shirazi, Fox News, May 7, 2019; Melissa Breyer, TreeHugger, February 28, 2019: U.S. Lighthouse Society; and U.S. Coast Guard.