Harman Patil (Editor)

Carysfort Reef Light

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Year first lit  1852 (current)
Construction  wrought iron tower
Opened  1852
Automated  1960
Foundation  screw-pile lighthouse
Height  37 m
Focal height  30 m
Year first constructed  1825
Location  Carysfort Reef Key Largo Florida United States
Deactivated  2014 (active as daybeacon)
Tower shape  octagonal pyramidal skeletal tower with 2-storey keeper's quarter, balcony and lantern
Similar  Sand Key Light, Fowey Rocks Light, Key Largo, Alligator Reef Light, Sombrero Key Light

Carysfort reef lighthouse 12 4 2016

Carysfort Reef Light is located approximately six nautical miles east of Key Largo, Florida. The lighthouse has an iron screw-pile foundation with a platform, and a skeletal, octagonal, pyramidal tower, which is painted red. The light is 100 feet (30 m) above the water. It is the oldest functioning lighthouse of its type in the United States, completed in 1852. Carysfort Reef is named for HMS Carysfort (1766), a 20-gun Royal Navy post ship that ran aground on the reef in 1770. The light is currently a xenon flashtube beacon.


Carysfort Reef Light Carysfort Reef Lighthouse Key Largo Florida Lee Smith Photography

Caesar and Florida

Carysfort Reef Light carysfort reef light stock photos OFFSET

The original Carysfort Reef light was a lightship named Caesar, starting in 1825. Caesar was built in New York City. While being sailed to its station, it went aground near Key Biscayne during a storm, and its crew abandoned the ship. The ship was salvaged by wreckers and taken to Key West, Florida. The owners bought the ship back and it was placed on station 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 had to be replaced after only five years because of dry rot.

The second lightship was named Florida.

Lightship keeper

Carysfort Reef Light wwwlighthousefriendscomcarysfort6jpg

Both lightships were captained by John Whalton, who at the age of 25 won his initial appointment as commander of the Caesar, in 1825. After the Cape Florida Lighthouse was burned by Seminoles in 1836, the Carysfort Reef lightship became the only navigational light on the Florida coast between St. Augustine and Key West. In 1836, Seminoles attacked Capt. Whalton and four of his helpers as they went ashore on Key Largo to tend their garden at Garden Cove, Key Largo. Capt. Whalton and one helper were killed, and two of the other three were wounded, but the three managed to escape back to the ship, where the rest of the seven man crew awaited, along with Capt. Whalton's wife and daughter, who at the time were visiting from Key West.

New lighthouse

Carysfort Reef Light Carysfort Reef Lighthouse Florida at Lighthousefriendscom

Congress appropriated funds for a lighthouse at Carysfort Reef in the 1840s. It was the third screw-pile lighthouse in the United States. The interchangeable parts were manufactured in 1848 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and a construction crew was trained there. 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 supervisor of the construction died, the US Army Corps of Topographical Engineers sent Lieutenant George Meade (later commander of the Army of the Potomac and victor at Gettysburg) to complete the project. This was Meade's first command of a lighthouse project.

Original structure

Carysfort Reef Light Carysfort Reef Lighthouse Florida at Lighthousefriendscom

The original lens was a first-order Fresnel lens. The structure originally had a balcony that encircled the enclosed, circular light keeper's quarters. The balcony and its railing were later removed.




Carysfort Reef Light Wikipedia