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Florida Lighthouses - Boca Grande Lighthouse, Gasparilla Island, FL

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To protect maritime traffic along the Florida gulf coast, the U. S. government established many lighthouses in the late 1800's. In order to assist cattle ships going from the port of Charlotte to Cuba, a lighthouse was constructed on the southernmost tip of Gasparilla Island in 1890. Originally called the Old Port Boca Grande Lighthouse, it stood guard over the deep-water Boca Grande Pass and Charlotte Harbor. Later, it helped guide phosphate ships to and from the nearby railroad docks that were built in 1909.

The lighthouse is a one-story dwelling built on steel supports to protect the square, house-like structure from storms surges and tides. The assistant's dwelling is an identical structure without a black lantern on top. The original light used a 3.5 order Fresnel lens that displayed a fixed white light varied by red flashes every 20 seconds.

More than 30 ships called at the phosphate docks each month during World War II. This marked the peak of shipping activity in and around the lighthouse. Eventually the lighthouse was automated in 1956. In 1968, the Coast Guard decommissioned the light in favor of the Gasparilla Island Rear Range Light, a 58-foot tall steel skeleton tower further inland. This structure continues in operation today as an automatic beacon.

Soon after, the Old Port Boca Grande Lighthouse fell into disrepair due to harsh beachfront elements and vandalism. During the 1970ís a group of local residents sought to preserve the structure and the lighthouse was deeded to Lee County and a rock jetty was built to protect the buildings. In 1980, the lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Later, the Coast Guard and the Gasparilla Island Conservation and Improvement Association reached agreement to re-establish the light in the tower. Restoration efforts began and in November 1986, the beacon was relit and currently aids navigation.

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