At the Southern edge of Anclote Key, Florida, a spindly red-brown tower rises above the surrounding treeline, topping out at about 34 meters.
It is the Anclote Key Lighthouse, which served as a navigational aid for ships in the Gulf of Mexico for nearly a century.
The unusual beacon is located on the largest of the Anclote Keys, a group of barrier islands in Florida. The city was officially incorporated in 1887, the same year that the railroad reached the area and the lighthouse was erected, originally commissioned a year earlier by president Grover Cleveland.
The park, one of Florida’s most remote state parks, also includes North Anclote Bar, South Anclote Bar and Three Rocker Island. Located three miles off the coast of Tarpon Springs, it is only accessible by boat or ferry service. The three minor islands are sand bars that tend to change shape with each new tropical storm that blows through.
The islands were named Anclote, Spanish for anchor, due to the method Spanish sailing vessels would use to navigate the shallow channels in the area. The navigation was accomplished by attaching a line to an anchor, dropping the anchor itself at a distance in the desired direction of travel, and then using the line to pull the boat to the anchor.
Depending on when and where they are built, lighthouses can take a number of different forms.
The Anclote Key Lighthouse is an example of a skeletal tower: Its lantern room sits atop a central cylinder with four supporting columns that slope outward to form a pyramid shape.
Skeletal towers are less expensive and faster to build than brick or stone towers, and the open-frame construction allows wind to pass through the support structures. Its structure was originally designed so that it could be disassembled and moved.
Assembling this cast-iron tower took just three months and Keeper James Gardner lit its light for the first time on September 15, 1887.
Initially keepers accessed the lantern through a spiral staircase located inside the tower’s central cylinder. Though Anclote Key was a boat ride away from the mainland, lightkeepers frequently visited town and visitors came by to take advantage of the island’s beaches.
The light was automated in 1952 and then decommissioned in 1984, as other navigation technologies rendered the lighthouse unnecessary and the station slowly fell into disrepair.
In 2002, a grassroots campaign to restore the lighthouse was launched, eventually raising more than a million dollars. In addition to the structural repairs, a new boardwalk leading up to the lighthouse was built. And thus, on September 13, 2003, the Anclote Key Lighthouse once again shone a light across the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and It now runs on solar energy.
Author’s notes: Anclote Key Preserve State Park is only accessible by boat. You can rent boats with several companies on the coast. Access to the tower is limited and requires advance registration. See the Friends of Anclote Key State Park website for more info.
Images from web – Google Research