On November 1, 1887, at about dusk, the head keeper of the Mosquito Inlet Lighthouse, William R. Rowlinski climbed the 213 steps of the tall, red brick giant to its lantern and proceeded to light the five concentric-wick kerosene lamp to inaugurate the first night of service for what is now known as the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse. The brilliant, fixed white light blazed forth from the Barbier & Fenestre first order lens. About two months before, a formal Notice to Mariners was issued from the Lighthouse Board formally announcing the new light’s presence on the coast atop the 175 foot tower. It took three years to complete the station situated on that previously dark 100 mile stretch of coast of East Florida. The notice also carried the Longitude and Latitude positions, bearings and distances of two other “prominent objects,” the Cape Canaveral Light-House at 41 nautical miles to the South, and the St. Augustine Light-House, some 52 nautical miles to the North.
In 1970, after more than eighty years of service, the U.S. Coast Guard decommissioned the station, and formulated plans to demolish the structures and use the rubble as an artificial reef. A group of Ponce Inlet residents, alarmed by the potential loss of so much local and national history, formed the Ponce de Leon Lighthouse Preservation Association, saved the tower and keepers’ residences from the wrecking ball and has managed and operated the station as an attraction and museum ever since. Restoration continues to this day, and as a result in 1998, the once dilapidated station was recognized as a National Historic Landmark, one of only twelve historic United States lighthouses to be so honored. Welcoming more than 175,000 visitors each year, the station is acknowledged as one of the best preserved and most representative light stations in the nation.
Congratulations to the Ponce de Leon Light Station and its organization of dedicated members on the 130th Anniversary this past November.
This story appeared in the
Jan/Feb 2018 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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