Key West Lighthouse


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The Key West Lighthouse as a Vibrant New Watercolor!

The Key West Lighthouse, a historic maritime landmark in the heart of Key West, Florida, embodies the island’s rich nautical heritage and resilient spirit. Erected in 1848, the lighthouse replaced an earlier structure that was destroyed by a powerful hurricane in 1846. Standing at 73 feet tall, it was constructed with the intent to guide mariners through treacherous waters. Because the area surrounding the Florida Keys, had claimed many ships due to their shallow reefs and unpredictable weather.

Key West Lighthouse Keepers

Originally, a dedicated team of keepers manned the house.  They maintained the light and ensured it was visible to ships navigating the perilous Straits of Florida. One of the most notable keepers was Barbara Mabrity, who took over after her husband’s death in 1832. She continued her duties until 1864, a remarkable tenure that highlights the pivotal role of women in lighthouse history.

The Key West Lighthouse History

Built in 1894, the lighthouse’s current height of 100 feet enhances its visibility. The beacon, initially powered by oil lamps, evolved over the years to utilize more advanced lighting technologies.  For example, Fresnel lenses and eventually electricity in 1932 went into use. This progression mirrors the broader technological advancements in maritime navigation throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


Decommissioned in 1969 the Key West Lighthouse was , as modern navigational aids rendered traditional lighthouses less critical. However, recognizing its historical and cultural significance, the Key West Art & Historical Society took over its stewardship, transforming it into a museum dedicated to preserving its storied past. Today, visitors can explore the lighthouse keeper’s quarters, filled with artifacts and exhibits that provide insights into the daily lives of those who maintained the light.


Climbing the 88 steps to the top of the lighthouse offers a panoramic view of Key West and its surrounding waters, a breathtaking reward for those seeking to connect with the island’s maritime history. The Key West Lighthouse stands not only as a testament to the island’s seafaring past but also as a symbol of the enduring legacy of the men and women who safeguarded the coastlines and ensured the safety of countless sailors. Lastly, preservation as a museum ensures that future generations can appreciate the vital role lighthouses played in shaping the history and culture of coastal communities.

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