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Carysfort Reef Lighthouse


Carysfort Reef Light is located approximately six nautical miles east of Key Largo, Florida. It was named for the HMS Carysfort (1766), a 20-gun Royal Navy post ship that ran aground on the reef in 1770. The lighthouse has an iron screw-pile foundation with a platform, and a skeletal, octagonal, pyramidal tower, which is painted red. The light shines 100 feet above the water.

Originally, in 1825, the first Carysfort Reef Light was a lightship named Caesar. The Caesar went aground during a storm near Key Biscayne. The owners bought the ship back and it was placed at Carysfort Reef. The lightship was often blown off-station by storms, and even went aground on the reef at one point. That first lightship developed dry rot and had to be replaced after only five years. A second lightship, named Florida, was then dispatched to the reef.

In the early 1840s, Congress apportioned funds for a lighthouse at Carysfort Reef. It was to be the third screw-pile lighthouse in the United States. It had interchangeable parts manufactured in Philadelphia where the construction crew was trained as well. The erection of the lighthouse was more difficult than expected. The site was under four-and-a-half feet of water, and the reef was not solid, as expected, but consisted of a hard shell over compacted sand. The plans had to be modified by adding large plates to the piles to spread the weight of the lighthouse over a larger area of the reef.

When the construction supervisor of the project died, the US Army Corps of Topographical Engineers sent Lieutenant George Meade (who later successfully commanded the Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg) to complete the project. This was Meade's first command of a lighthouse project, and many more followed. The original lens that was used in this lighthouse was a First Order Fresnel lens. The light currently installed is a xenon flash tube beacon. The Carysfort Lighthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.




A 52 Weeks of Fun Fascinating Fact about Carysfort Reef Lighthouse

Carysfort Reef Lighthouse was the oldest functioning lighthouse of its type in the United States until it was decommissioned in 2015.

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