American Shoals Lighthouse . Looe Key . Florida . Watercolor . 9" x 12"
... following years of groundings, strandings and shipwrecks... and continuous rejection by the United States Congress to provide the funding necessary to complete a string of lighthouses along the length of the Florida Keys... a tall pole was driven into the shallow bottom of the reef and topped with a white drum. Two years later, in 1852, an unlighted screw pile replaced that can on a stick. The slow construction of an actual lighthouse commenced in 1878 and finally saw completion in 1880. The structure, tower and keeper's quarters, built by the Phoenix Iron Company of Trenton, New Jersey, was contained within an octagonal, steel exoskeleton, patterned in the same design as the earlier, Fowey Rocks Lighthouse (1878), sited off Key Biscayne. The first-order Fresnel lens received red glass panels in 1893 to further identify locations of specific dangerous reefs. The Fresnel light was replaced and automated, and keeper personnel removed in 1963; however, the United States Coast Guard refurbished and reoccupied the light during the Cuban refugee exodus later in that same year. It has since been vacated. In 1981, Looe Key was designated a marine sanctuary and in 2015, the American Shoals Lighthouse was deactivated following erection of an automated, 30-foot tower beacon nearby.