Historic Structures

Pensacola Lighthouse, Pensacola Florida

Date added: October 12, 2016 Categories: Florida Lighthouse

In 1823 Congress provided for the construction of a lighthouse at the entrance of Pensacola Harbor and authorized arrangements to be made for an attendant. Congress appropriated $6,000 for the structure and by 1825 $5,725 had been spent for that purpose. The light was first illuminated that same year. The focal plane of the light was 80 feet above the sea level.

In 1854 Congress appropriated $25,000 "for rebuilding on a proper site, and elevating and refitting with the most approved illuminating apparatus the lighthouse at Pensacola." Two years later, on August 18, 1856, Congress appropriated an additional $30,000 "for the erection of proper range lights for crossing the bar at the entrance to Pensacola Harbor, and for completing the light authorized at that place August 3, 1854, In 1857, only $2,000 of that amount was spent, but in 1858 $45,988.82 was expended for the purposes designated. The 1857 report of the Lighthouse Board stated: "The first class lighthouse at Pensacola is under construction, and it is expected that it will be completed during the present working season; after the completion of which the beacons authorized, as ranges for crossing the bar and for making a safe anchorage at night, will be erected." In 1859 it was reported that the lighthouse and new set of ranges had been completed and lighted January 1, 1859. The new lighthouse was described as a first-order revolving lightbeam 160 feet above the ground and 210 feet above the sea. It was at this time that the new Fresnel lens was installed. Measurements taken in the summer of 1972 show the beam is actually 150 feet above the benchmark and 191.5 feet above sea level.

The first reference to extensive repairs to the Pensacola Lighthouse is found in 1848 Light List which indicated that in the previous year the original lighthouse was refitted with a new lantern, plate glass, and that other work was accomplished. The 1854 report of the Lighthouse Board noted that the revolving machinery of the light had been taken apart and cleaned.

As a result of Civil War damages, Congress, on March 2, 1867, appropriated $20,000 "for repairs and renovations at Pensacola Light Station." Most of this sum was spent in restoring the tower in order to reestablish the lighthouse as a first-class light, and for the new keeper's house. All of which was accomplished by April 1, 1869.

Lightning struck the tower twice in 1873-74, melting the fixtures of the call-bell , damaging the brick masonry of the covered way between the keeper's quarters and the tower, breaking windows, and other damages. Repairs were made after the first bolt. The second bolt caused almost identical damage and the repairs had to be repeated. A examination showed the lightning rod to be defective, and it was replaced.

In 1877 the roof of the keeper's house, damaged in a tornado, was replaced by a shingle roof.

The following year, l8 78, the Lighthouse Board reported that the effects of Civil War bombardment coupled with several devastating hurricanes had affected the stability of the tower and $5,000 was requested for repairs. After the money was secured the following year, the tower was repointed from top to bottom.

The lighthouse was converted to electricity in 1939. Periodic chipping, painting and other maintenance is constantly required for the lighthouse. Occasionally, however, it becomes necessary to provide a thorough reconditioning. The 19 60 rehabilitation is considered typical of the work which has been required at various times throughout the last century. In that year the exterior of the light tower was generally repaired and repainted. The brick surfaces were sandblasted, the mortar joints were cleaned of the loose material and tuck pointed. The metal plates surrounding the upper portion of the tower were removed, rust areas sandblasted and all were given protective coats of paint and replaced. The entire exterior was repainted, the lower third white and the upper two thirds black. By 1965 the lighthouse was fully automated, and the keeper was no longer needed to operate the lighthouse.