ISLAMORADA, Florida Keys – A 150-year-old lighthouse that has been extinguished for a decade is shining again at night in the Florida Keys.
Organizers of an Islamorada community group that took title to the lighthouse in late 2021 installed solar-powered lights in the lantern room to remind the public of a nearly six-million-dollar project that is underway to restore and preserve the aging structure.
“Alligator Lighthouse was lit in 1873 and it stayed lit until about 2013, and then it went dark for 10 years,” said Rob Dixon, executive director of Save Alligator Lighthouse. “And now our Statue of Liberty is lit once again.
“We lit Alligator Lighthouse up so the whole community could be focused, even at nighttime,” Dixon said.
Alligator Reef Lighthouse is named after the USS Alligator, a U.S. Navy schooner that ran aground on the reef in 1822 and sank.
Alligator Reef Lighthouse and five other aging lighthouses off the Keys were important maritime navigational aids that helped warn ships away from the Keys’ barrier coral reef. But modern-day satellite navigation made open-water lighthouses off the Keys obsolete and the structures now fall under the auspices of the General Services Association for disposal.
A detailed engineering study of Alligator Lighthouse was completed to determine what is required to stabilize the structure after many years of being subjected to highly corrosive conditions.
“To save Alligator Lighthouse, the engineering study says it’s going to be a 6-year, five- to six-million-dollar project, so we need to raise funds,” said Dixon. “We’ve got a great community behind us; we’ve got a lot of support — there’s nobody in this community that doesn’t want to help our project.”
Dixon said fundraising is well underway with about $500,000 already raised that includes $215,000 from the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.