Jupiter Jaunt

March 23, 2011

Another birthday has come and gone, but I was fortunate to spend it in such beautiful locations as Juno Beach and Jupiter, Florida. And one of our explorations was of the 1860 Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse.

Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse

The Lighthouse is located near the Jupiter Inlet and is a great place to do some major boat watching. We paid for the tour of the lighthouse grounds, and climbed the 105 stairs to the top. What a view!

View from top of the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse


Jupiter Inlet as seen from the top of the Jupiter Lighthouse

Not to sound like a broken record on this blog, but lighthouses are some of the most mysterious and romantic buildings on earth!  And I am, as always, in awe of them, jealous of all those who were privileged to live and work in them.

No Ordinary Tree

On the lighthouse grounds a beautiful, massive Banyan tree grows. As I gazed up into its branches, I felt an overwhelming urge to climb up, as high as I could. Although I’ve never been much of a tomboy, and can’t recall ever climbing a tree in my youth, this one could make up for all that.

Banyan Tree on the grounds of the Jupiter Lighthouse

After a relaxing drive on Jupiter Island, we circled back for lunch at The Crab House.  We had been to this restaurant eight years ago, during our very first dive trip to Florida from North Carolina. Then it had been a bit exotic. This time it appeared to be a mass server of mediocre food, and less than perfect service. But, it’s all about location, location, location. And this place has it.  Directly across from the lighthouse, a diner can watch boats of all sizes go by, or instead focus on the dozens of brown pelicans that occupy the shoreline, dive bombing into the water, and coming up to swallow their catch.

Brown Pelicans

Jupiter is definitely a place to revisit….again and again!


Barbara’s Light

July 9, 2010

In an earlier post on this blog, I mentioned that I was curious to see if I could find a female lighthouse keeper in Florida history.  Well, I have!  In Key West no less.  And, to top it off, her name was Barbara, just like mine. 


The Key West Lighthouse was first lit in 1826 by Michael Mabrity, the very first Lighthouse Keeper.  His wife Barbara was the Assistant Lighthouse Keeper.  When Michael  died of yellow fever in 1832, Barbara was appointed Keeper and kept that role for 32 years!  While not conducting lighthouse business, she raised her six children all alone as well.  She battled through hurricanes in 1835, 1841 and 1842.  In 1846, the Great Havana Hurricane hit Key West hard.  Barbara survived, along with one of her children, but the  lighthouse crumbled to the ground.  In 1848 it was rebuilt, in its present day location, and Barbara resiliently took up her old post. 

Barbara Mabrity was fired from her post as Lighthouse Keeper in 1864, at the grand old age of 82, for making anti-Union statements during the Civil War.  The legacy continued however.   Barbara’s granddaughter, Mary, married a man who would become the Lighthouse Keeper and she would join him as Assistant Lighthouse Keeper.  As with her grandmother, the husband died and she became the appointed Keeper.  She only lasted three months before typhoid fever took her also.  But the Mabrity family association with the lighthouse continued on, and their history enveloped the lighthouse for over eighty years. 

View of the Key West Lighthouse from the Second Floor of the Hemingway House

The lighthouse was deactivated in 1969 and is now the Key West Light House and Keeper’s Quarters Museum.  A wonderful place to explore!

Skeletals and Cattle

June 11, 2010

The Sanibel Lighthouse, or as the locals know it – the Point Ybel Light – challenges my romantic notions of lighthouses.  Its design doesn’t fit within my dreamy perception of lighthouse living.  Although you can view the grounds of the Lighthouse, you can’t enter the tower and climb its 120 steps to the top, or tour the former Keepers’ quarters.  Still, as always, I am fascinated with its history.


Prior to 1900, Congress stopped approving expenditures for building masonry lighthouses.  As a result, the Lighthouse Board developed what is known as the skeletal design.

First there was the Whitefish Point Class Michigan Experimentals (1861), then the Liston Class Delaware Bay Hexagonals (1876-1881). The third design class was established in 1884, the same year the Sanibel Lighthouse was built.  Being the first in this new design, the class was named after it – Sanibel Class Square Skeletals. This design remained prominent until 1910.

An identifying characteristic of the Sanibel Class Square Skeletals is the central cylinder, a broad tube that runs up the center of the structure and contains a stairway to the lantern room at the top.  At the bottom, the central column ends approximately ten feet from the ground, where an iron ladder takes you the rest of the way. Another feature is the octagonal shape of the lantern and watch rooms. 

In addition, this new lighthouse on Sanibel Island had to be built hurricane-tough.  For this purpose, its interlocking iron framework is attached to concrete supports deep in the ground.

Seventeen lighthouses of this design were built.  Fourteen of them are still standing today, including three more in Florida – Cape San Blas (1885), Anclote Key (1887), and Crooked River (Carabelle) (1895). 



Requests for a lighthouse on Sanibel Island began in the early 1800s.  Finally, in 1881, its building was approved by Congress.  It turns out that cattle were the driving force behind this final approval.

In the 19th century, trade with Cuba grew and cattle from Central Florida became a hot commodity.  The cattle were rounded up and led onto steamers at Punta Rassa Harbor and shipped off to Cuba.  With the increased boat traffic, a lighthouse had to be erected to assure safe passage.

This just goes to show that unique history is everywhere, even right here in Florida. A little curiosity and a  little digging can teach a lot.

To My Lighthouse

April 26, 2010


The Lighthouse was then a silvery, misty-looking tower with a yellow eye, that opened suddenly, and softly in the evening…

— Virginia Wolfe  (To the Lighthouse)

Women Who Kept the Lights

I have this grand romantic notion about lighthouses.  Whenever I see one I become completely mesmerized.  I wonder what it was like to live in isolation, working all night, every night, to light the way for passing ships. 

On my bookshelf sits a book by Mary Louise Clifford and J. Candace Clifford, Women Who Kept the Lights: An Illustrated History of Female Lighthouse Keepers.  It tells of such women as Hannah Thomas who faithfully kept the light lit at Gurnet Point Light in Plymouth, Massachusetts while her husband was away fighting the British.  Then there was Ida Lewis, the daughter of a lighthouse keeper, and later, the official lighthouse keeper herself, at Lime Rock beacon off the coast of Rhode Island.  Ida not only filled the lamp with oil at sundown and again at midnight, but also managed to rescue over 18 people during her service.  A noble profession indeed.

So the mystery of lighthouses is not new for me.  Fortunately, with over 1,000 miles of coastline, Florida boasts over 30 lighthouses of its own, each with its own unique history and mystery.  Who knows, maybe I’ll find one with a history of a female lighthouse keeper, or at least a wife or daughter who helped out. 

Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse

According to the Florida Lighthouse Association, most Florida residents live within 50 miles of a historic lighthouse.  I am definitely one of those residents.  Whenever my eye catches the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse just south of Daytona Beach, I get this faraway dreamy look in my eyes and I just can’t look away.

 The Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse tower, at 175 feet tall, is the second tallest lighthouse in the United States. Original buildings occupy the lighthouse grounds, and  climbing the 203 steps to the top rewards you with an incredible view of the inlet.   It’s easy to spend all day here as there is a lighthouse museum, which includes exhibits of the lighthouse keepers and their families, and a building dedicated to a collection of restored Fresnel lenses.  


 With this being but one lighthouse in a state full of lighthouses, I can now enthusiastically add Number 2 to my List of 50 Things to Love About Florida—  exploring Florida’s lighthouses.