At the southern edge of Anclote Key, a spindly red-brown tower rises above the surrounding treeline, topping out at 110 feet. This is the Anclote Key Lighthouse, which served as a navigational aid for ships in the Gulf of Mexico for nearly a century.
The lighthouse is located on the largest of the Anclote Keys, a group of barrier islands in Florida. The island chain is located just a few miles offshore from the city of Holiday. The city was officially incorporated in 1887, the same year that the railroad reached the area and the Anclote Keys Light was erected.
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.
Assembling the cast-iron tower took just three months. The Anclote Key Lighthouse was first lit on September 15, 1887. 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. 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. On September 13, 2003, the Anclote Key Lighthouse once again shone a light across the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Know Before You Go
Anclote Key Preserve State Park is open daily from 8 a.m. to sunset. There is no fee to enter. The park is only accessible by boat. You can rent boats with Windsong Charters & Boat Rentals and at the Anclote Village Marina. The lighthouse is also visible from Fred Howard Park.
Access to the tower itself is limited, and requires advance registration. See the Friends of Anclote Key State Park website for more information.
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