ISLAMORADA, Fla. — A 150-year-old beacon that helped guide ships through the treacherous Florida Keys coral reefs before GPS, sonar and other technology made it obsolete is shining again as part of a national effort to save historic lighthouses that have dotted the U.S. coast for more than a century.
An Islamorada community group that is spending $6 million to restore and preserve the Alligator Reef Lighthouse turned on its new solar-powered lights on Saturday to remind the public about the effort.
“Alligator Lighthouse was lit in 1873 and it stayed lit until about 2013, and then it went dark for 10 years,” said Rob Dixon, the executive director of Save Alligator Lighthouse, which took over the lighthouse’s title in late 2021. “And now our Statue of Liberty is lit once again.”
The lighthouse is named after the USS Alligator, a Navy schooner that ran aground on the reef in 1822 and sank.
Alligator and five other aging lighthouses off the Keys were important maritime navigational aids that once warned ships away from the area’s barrier coral reef. But modern-day satellite navigation made open-water lighthouses obsolete and such structures are being disposed of by the General Services Association.
A detailed engineering study of Alligator Lighthouse was completed to determine stabilization needs after many years in highly corrosive conditions.
Dixon said an engineering study determined that it will take six years and $5 million to $6 million dollars to save the Alligator Lighthouse.
“There’s nobody in this community that doesn’t want to help our project,” he said.
Dixon said fundraising is well underway with about $500,000 already raised, including $215,000 from the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.
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