as I’ve done in San Diego and Portland, I felt compelled to take in the views from the top of the lighthouse in Key West. the original structure, built in 1825, stood on the shore and was flattened by a hurricane in 1846. the keeper, Barbara Mobrity (who succeeded her husband who died in 1832), survived but six of her children perished in the storm.
|seriously — you have to climb these!
rather than replace it with one on the same spot, they erected the new lighthouse and keepers quarters in the middle of the island. the new building rose to 46 feet (compared to the original’s 65 feet) initially, but was extended in to 86 feet in 1894 to make it visible above the rising tree line. Barbara stayed on as keeper upon its completion in 1847, but lost her position at the age of 82 after making statements against the Union (which controlled Key West and the lighthouse) during the Civil War.
the Coast Guard decommissioned the lighthouse in 1969 and turned the property over to Monroe County, who leased it to the Key West Art & Historical Society, which now runs it, in 1972.
of all the lighthouses I’ve visited, climbing the one in Key West unnerved me the most. generally, I don’t have a problem with heights, but something about ascending 88 narrow, open-backed, iron stairs up the center of the structure unsettled me and made it somewhat difficult to enjoy the remarkable views from the deck.
perhaps it also had something to do with the warning, immediately inside the door, not to stay in the tower when there’s a thunderstorm. so much of the damn thing is metal and isn’t what one might consider “safe” to stand on and/or in during storms as I understand iron makes a pretty good conductor, making the 86 foot tower an effective lightning rod that can kill you.