Monday, February 6, 2017

To The Lighthouse

The city of Key West got its charter in 1828 but three years before that it got it's first lighthouse on the beach on the southeastern corner of the island.  20 years later a hurricane wiped out the lighthouse and the new one was built inland at the current location on Whitehead Street at Truman. It has been said that it is odd to put a lighthouse well inland but safety was paramount besides which in the 1840s the city itself wasn't that lit up at night so the light would have been clearly visible. You can still see it at sea made visible by revolving even though it is no longer an official navigation light. In the midst of a brightly lit city the flashing lighthouse light still stands out for those that are looking for it.
 From Wikipedia:
 The first Key West lighthouse was a 65-foot (20 m) tower completed in 1825. It had 15 lamps in 15-inch (380 mm) 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 was wrecked during 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 (13 km) 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 1860s, when she was fired at age 82 for making statements against the Union (Key West remained under Union control throughout the Civil War).
I last checked out the lighthouse in distant 2008 so I was glad on the recent visit to Key West by my sister in law to show her the sights including this one. She was fascinated by the Seward Johnson statues that crops up around town: 
The lighthouse keepers light is a cool air conditioned museum dedicated to the life lived in 19th century Key West.
I took the picture of the spiral staircase in 2008 and nothing much has changed. I was much fitter this visit and bounded to the top in reasonable shape squeezing past the down bound visitors. Coming down is a bit more tricky as the steps are quite vertical and the unpleasant sensation of falling straight down can only be avoided by stepping with ridiculous attention to detail and daintiness.
The view has been enhanced by the removal of protective wires that used to be installed around the viewing platform.
 It used to look like this,and not very aesthetic:
Nowadays the views are unobstructed and my Lumix FZ300 telephoto made for a chance to get some pictures:
The camera has a fixed lense that copes from 25 to 600mm allowing for wide angled shots to quite powerful telephoto pictures. It's also compact and dust proof and rain proof. For a one and a half pound burden I get a camera that does all I want and fills in the shortcomings of the phone lense, which even on the iPhone 6 model is quite a remarkable camera considering it is "just" a smart phone. The twin spires of the Minor Catholic Basilica of  St Mary's on Truman Avenue:
 The Hemingway House is always a souvenir photo opportunity to take home:
Key West Harbor looking west to the Lakes, a shallow bowl of sea water surrounded by mangrove islands:
 The view south (Cuba is still not visible!)
That is Sand Key light, a tower about seven miles southwest of Key West and marks the entrance to the channel into the harbor between the reefs for smaller boats.
From Wikipedia:
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 BoardCongress was slow to appropriate funds for the new lighthouses. The new tower for the Key West Light was completed in 1848. It was 50 feet (15 m) tall with 13 lamps in 21-inch (530 mm) reflectors, and stood on ground about 15 feet (4.6 m) 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 (30 m) above sea level.
 This contraption if original would have been used to lift freight to the top of the tower:
 From this height the homes below look like dolls houses:
After we struggled back down the tight spiral stair case we paid a visit to the Lighthouse Keeper's home on the property:
A worthwhile tour of a property that offers great views and insight into historical living.