Historic Structures

Boca Grande Lighthouse Gasparilla Island, Boca Grande Florida

Date added: July 10, 2019 Categories: Florida Lighthouse

The Boca Grande Lighthouse derives its primary significance from its opening of the Boca Grande Harbor for large phosphate shipments. The lighthouse was completed in September, 1890, and activated on December 31, 1890. Presumably, the assistant keeper's quarters were constructed at the same time. The design reflects the fact that the light did not require as much elevation that is seen in other Florida lighthouses due to its serving as a harbor beacon as opposed to outer maritime traffic.

New phosphate discoveries in west central Florida and advanced mining techniques developed in the 1880's demanded a port capable of handling the increased volume of seagoing traffic. During the 1890's phosphate mined in the Peace River area was brought out to deep water in lighters and barges where it was transferred to ocean-going vessels. This necessitated the building of the Boca Grande Lighthouse; a quay, known as the State Quarantine Dock; and the installation of a customs office to inspect the incoming vessels arriving to load the phosphate.

Originally, a black lantern displaying a fixed white light interrupted by a red flash warned approaching vessels of the hazards of the Boca Grande pass. The focal plane of the 100,000 candle power light was forty-four feet above near sea level and could be seen at a distance of twenty-four miles.

In 1909 the procedure for transporting the phosphate changed with the completion of the Charlotte Harbor and Northern Railroad. The completion of the railroad necessitated the construction of the present phosphate docks in order to accomodate the larger shipments. The Boca Grande Lighthouse functioned until 1960 when the light was moved two miles to the north.

The Boca Grande Lighthouse Reservation, located on 3.5 acres of land at the southern tip of Gasparilla Island, contains the Boca Grande Lighthouse, the assistant keeper's quarters, one corrugated metal building, two metal cisterns, one masonary paint locker, and a U. S. Coast Guard beacon. Resting on steel screw pilings with wooden braces, the square Boca Grande Lighthouse has weatherboard siding with cornerboards. Originally, two sets of stairs led to galleries on the east and south facades. Although the present plain balustrade was added later for safety reasons, the wood posts with brackets seem to be original. The main entrance is on the south facade and consists of two central four-panelled wood doors with transom sashes. A secondary entrance on the east gallery is accessible from the northern stairs and is also a four-panelled wood door with transom sash. The irregular fenestration originally had double hung sash; but at an unspecified time was changed to awning windows. The pyramid roof was originally wood shingle, but was changed to slate in 1899 and to composition shingles at some unknown later date. The octagonal metal and jalousie glass light enclosure rests on a low, square weatherboard tower with central jalousie windows on all sides.

Located seventy feet northeast of the Boca Grande Lighthouse is the assistant keeper's house. Presumably constructed in 1890 also, the assistant keeper's house is virtually identical to the lighthouse itself. The major differences are that this structure has a south central single four-pannel wood door with transom sash; an incised gallery on the south, west, and north facades, and a partial gallery on the east facade; the fenestration is double-hung sash; and the fact that it has a vent at the apex of the pyramid roof instead of a light.