Sand Key Light

Sand Key Light is a lighthouse 6 nautical miles (11 km; 6.9 mi) southwest of Key West, Florida, between Sand Key Channel and Rock Key Channel, two of the channels into Key West, on a reef intermittently covered by sand.[2][3][4] At times the key has been substantial enough to have trees, and in 1900 nine to twelve thousand terns nested on the island. At other times the island has been washed away completely.[5]

Sand Key Light
Sand Key Light 2005.jpg
Sand Key Light, 2005
Locationsouthwest of Key West, Florida
Coordinates24°27′14″N 81°52′39″W / 24.45389°N 81.87750°W / 24.45389; -81.87750Coordinates: 24°27′14″N 81°52′39″W / 24.45389°N 81.87750°W / 24.45389; -81.87750
Constructed1827 Edit this on Wikidata
Foundationcast iron screw piling
Constructioncast iron
Shapesquare pyramidal skeletal tower
HeritageNational Register of Historic Places listed place Edit this on Wikidata
Racon"N" (— ∘)
First lit1853
Focal height109 feet (33 m)
Lensfirst order Fresnel lens
RangeWhite 14 nautical miles (26 km; 16 mi), Red 11 nautical miles (20 km; 13 mi)
CharacteristicFlashing (2) white 15s with red sectors
Sand Key Lighthouse
Arealess than one acre
ArchitectJ.W.P. Lewis, John F. Riley Ironworks
Architectural styleIron Screw Pile Lighthouse
NRHP reference No.73000589[1]
Added to NRHPApril 11, 1973

Early historyEdit

The first navigational light on Sand Key was a 60-foot (18 m) brick tower built in 1827. After the first keeper, John Flaherty, died in 1830, his widow Rebecca took over the job. In 1844 a hurricane eroded part of the island, destroyed the keeper's house, and damaged the seawall. The 1846 Havana hurricane toppled the tower, killing the light keeper and five others.[4][5][note 1]

Reconstructions and renovationsEdit

As the Key West Light had also been destroyed in the same storm, a ship, the Honey, was acquired and outfitted as a lightship to serve as the Sand Key Light until new lighthouses could be built. Due to efforts to reorganize the Lighthouse Board, Congress was slow to appropriate funds for the new lighthouses.[4][5]

A screw-pile foundation for a new light on Sand Key was begun in 1852. Funds ran out before the foundation was complete, and the contractor had to wait seven years for final payment. Later that year Lieutenant George Meade, who had completed construction of the Carysfort Reef Light, was placed in charge of construction of the Sand Key Light. The light tower was completed in 1853. This light was the first to use the hydraulic lamp designed by George Meade.[5]

The screw-pile foundation and open framework tower allowed the lighthouse to survive later hurricanes, including one in 1856 that completely washed away all of the island above water.[5] The light was automated in 1938. In 1967 the first order Fresnel lens was removed and replaced by a fourth order lens. That in turn was removed in 1982 and replaced with a flash tube array. The tower was severely damaged in a fire in 1989, and the light was moved to a nearby temporary structure. An attempt was made to restore the structure of the tower in 1995, but the keeper's quarters were demolished in 1996. The light was returned to the tower in 1998.[4] The light was deactivated in 2015, and was auctioned by GSA Auctions in 2020 for US$83,000.[8]



  1. ^ Sources contradict. The United States Coast Guard Historian's Office says that "Rebecca Flaherty was keeper for 16 years following the death of her husband in 1830. The Great Havana Hurricane in 1846 eroded the sand ... killing Rebecca Flaherty and five others",[4] a story which is repeated in several sources, e.g., Dean[5] and McCarthy.[6] On the other hand, the Historian's Office lists the keepers as "Rebecca Flaherty (1830-?), Captain Frederick Neill (? – 1836), Captain Francis Watlington (1836-1837), Captain Joshua Appleby (1837-1846 – killed)" suggesting Flaherty was long gone by 1846. This is supported by Taylor[7] which puts Captain Frederick Neill as Flaherty's second husband, and them leaving Sand Key in 1836.


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  2. ^ Rowlett, Russ (2013-08-17). "Lighthouses of the United States: Eastern Florida and the Keys". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 2017-09-09.
  3. ^ Light List, Volume III, Atlantic Coast, Little River, South Carolina to Econfina River, Florida (PDF). Light List. United States Coast Guard. 2009. p. 12.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Historic Light Station Information and Photography: Florida". United States Coast Guard Historian's Office. Archived from the original on 2017-05-01.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Love, Dean (1982). Reef Lights: Seaswept Lighthouses of the Florida Keys. Key West, Florida: The Historic Key West Preservation Board. pp. 45–59. ISBN 0-943528-03-8.
  6. ^ McCarthy, Kevin M. (1990). Florida Lighthouses. Paintings by William L. Trotter. Gainesville: University of Florida Press. ISBN 0-8130-0982-0.
  7. ^ Thomas, Taylor (Summer 2003). "Sand Key Florida's Two Lighthouses" (PDF). The Keeper's Log. Retrieved 2 June 2021.
  8. ^ "Sand Key Lighthouse". GSA Auctions. Archived from the original on 2021-01-15.

Further readingEdit

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