Key West Light

Key West Light

Infobox Lighthouse

caption = Key West Lighthouse
location = Whiteheads Point in Key West, Florida
coordinates = coord|24|33|2.16|N|81|48|2.52|W|type:landmark
yearlit = 1849
automated = 1915
yeardeactivated = 1969
foundation = "Natural emplaced"
construction = Brick
shape = Conical
height = 86 feet
lens = 13 Argand lamps with 21-inch reflectors

The Key West Light is located in Key West, Florida. The first Key West lighthouse was a 65-foot tower completed in 1825. It had 15 lamps in 15-inch reflectors. The first keeper, Michael Mabrity, died in 1832, and his widow, Barbara, became the lighthouse keeper, serving for 32 years. The Great Havana Hurricane of 1846 destroyed the lighthouse; the USS Morris, which survived the storm, reported "a white sand beach covers the spot where Key West Lighthouse stood". Barbara Mabrity survived, but fourteen people who had sought refuge in the lighthouse tower died, including seven members of her family. (The same hurricane destroyed the Sand Key Lighthouse, eight miles away, killing six people, including the keeper, Rebecca Flaherty, another widow of a previous keeper.) Barbara Mabrity continued to serve as keeper of the Key West Light until the early 1860's, when she was fired at age 82 for making statements against the Union (Key West remained under Union control throughout the Civil War).

As both lighthouses serving Key West had been destroyed in the 1846 hurricane, a ship, the "Honey", was acquired and outfitted as a lightship to serve as the Sand Key Light until new lighthouses could be built. Due to efforts to reorganize the Lighthouse Board, Congress was slow to appropriate funds for the new lighthouses. The new tower for the Key West Light was completed in 1849. It was 66 feet tall with 13 lamps in 21-inch reflectors, and stood on ground about 15 feet above sea level. In 1858 the light received a third order Fresnel lens. In 1873 the lantern was replaced (it had been damaged by a hurricane in 1866), adding three feet to the height of the tower. The growth of trees and taller buildings in Key West began to obscure the light, and in 1894 the tower was raised twenty feet, placing the light about 100 feet above sea level.

After the Coast Guard decommissioned the Key West Light in 1969, it was turned over to Monroe County, which in turn leased it to the Key West Arts and Historical Society. The society operates the lighthouse and its associated buildings as a museum. On display at the museum is the first order Fresnel lens from the Sombrero Key lighthouse.


* [ Key West Arts and Historical Society - The Key West Light House and Keeper's Quarters Museum] - accessed January 9 2006
* [ Florida Lighthouse Page - Key West Lighthouse History]
* [ U.S. Coast Guard Historic Light Station Information - Florida] - accessed June 29 2008
* [ National Park Service Inventory of Historic Light Stations - Florida Lighthouses - Key West Light] - accessed January 9 2006
*McCarthy, Kevin M. (1990). "Key West Lighthouse" "Florida Lighthouses", Paintings by William L. Trotter, Gainesville, Florida: University Presses of Florida. ISBN 0-8130-0982-0.
*Dean, Love (1982). "Appendix: Sample Light List from 1848" "Reef Lights", Key West, Florida: The Historic Key West Preservation Board. ISBN 0-943528-03-8.

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