In Ponce de Leon Inlet, Florida there is a beautiful and historical light house that was built in the year 1835. Today it is a site to behold and a museum that you can visit and take a nice stroll up its magnificent spiral staircase. This very lighthouse is the tallest one found in the state of Florida and one of the tallest in the nation. It towers at 175 feet tall and is found between St. Augustine Light and Cape Canaveral Light. In the year 1998 the lighthouse was restored and became a National Historic Landmark by the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse Preservation Association. Now being a National Historic Landmark it does have quite a history that is very intriguing. It was the first lighthouse to be built in 1835 and was erected on the south side of Mosquito Inlet. But due to an unfortunate event, the oil lamp was never delivered and soon after the tower was built, a strong storm came in and washed away the sand base of the tower which weakened it tremendously. Soon after that, the Second Seminole War began and in December 1835 the Seminole Indians attacked the lighthouse, which they decided to smash the glass in the lantern room and set fire to its wooden stairs. Due to the attack the lighthouse was abandoned and due to the war it prevented any repairs to be done on the lighthouse, causing the lighthouse to collapse within the next year.
Due to no lighthouse being in the area there were many shipwrecks along the coast near Mosquito Inlet, but it was not until 1883 that a new attempt was done to create a new lighthouse. The new lighthouse to be built was based off the original plans of the first one but with some modifications for a specific place. The person to supervise the construction of the lighthouse was Chief Engineer Orville E. Babcock until his death by drowning in the Mosquito Inlet in 1884. The tower was completed and the lamp could be seen twenty miles (32km) away, which was finally lit in 1887. Interestingly enough other events soon followed after the completion of the lighthouse. A famous author and journalist Stephen Crane was en route to cover a brewing revolt against Spanish rule in Cuba, when the ship he was on, the SS Commodore, sank off on the coast of Florida. For a daring escape he and his crewman used a small dinghy to get away and soon were spotted and steered towards for the Mosquito Inlet Light. Stephen Crane used this experienced event in his short story “The Open Boat”.
Over the years of the lighthouse existence there were a few improvements done to it. In 1909, the original lamp was fueled by kerosene and soon replaced with an incandescent oil vapor lamp. By 1924 a generator was built to provide electricity in the keepers’ dwellings and to pump water, which replaced the out of date old watermill pump. With the next decade in 1933, the lighthouse beacon was powered by electricity with a 500-Watt light bulb. Then the first order Fresnal lens were replaced with a third order rotating Fresnal Lens at the same time. Surprisingly the Light house name was changed from Mosquito Inlet to Ponce de Leon Inlet in the year 1927. Then the lighthouse was transferred from the abolished Lighthouse Service to the Coast Guard in 1939 which interestingly enough would oversee it for the next three decades. The Coast Guard abandoned the lighthouse station in 1970 and established a new one at New Smryna Beach. This led the property deed to be given to the town of Ponce Inlet. Due to the interest from the citizens the town of Ponce Inlet accepted the Light Station property from the Coast Guard in 1972, and the Lighthouse Preservation Association was formed to manage the lighthouse as a museum. Within the same year the lighthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. By 1982 the lighthouse was activated again to serve and by August 5, 1998 the lighthouse itself was designated as a National Historic Landmark and was one of ten given such an honor.
If you ever want to visit the lighthouse you will probably excited to learn of its history and more about its functions. It even has a nice spiral staircase inside that will take you to the top and looks safer than most lighthouses inside. Usually most lighthouses have very small stairs and seem a little scary to some people.
Ponce de Leon Inlet Light’s Spiral Staircase located in Ponce Inlet, Florida.