By Cindy Jo Ayers
The lighthouse on Seahorse Key off Cedar Key was lit after 104 years at 9:30 p.m. on Friday, July 5. The lighthouse has remained dark after it was deactivated in 1915.
A company out of Celebration, Florida Artworks Florida Classic Fresnel Lenses, LLC built the new lens and installed it on May 20, 2019. The 4th Order fixed/flashing lens reproduction has two exterior rotating flash panels designed with vertical prisms which collects the light from the fixed panel creating a focused beam of light. The light is powered by both a propane generator and solar power.
Fresnels lens were invented by Augustin Fresnel of France in 1819. All the lighthouses in America used Fresnel lens to enhance their beams of light.
Seahorse Key and the lighthouse are managed by the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge.
The town of Cedar Key invited the public to come out and see the lighting of the light which was visible from the water front facing southwest. The lighthouse light project was funded by the Florida Historical Preservation grant applied for by the University of Florida.
The Cedar Key Lighthouse is one of 30 lighthouses in the state of Florida. William Wilson, the lighthouse’s first keeper, lit the wicks in the tower’s fourth-order Fresnel lens for the first time on August 1, 1854. The light’s characteristic was fixed white, punctuated by a flash every minute. The lighthouse was built for $12,000 on a mound in the middle of Seahorse Key which is fifty-two feet above the sea, reportedly making it the highest point on Florida’s west coast. The lighthouse itself and tower raises the light an additional 23 feet. It was reported that at one time the light could be seen for 10 miles.
Seahorse Key has a very interesting history even before the lighthouse was built. The key was used as a detention center for Seminoles captured in the Second Seminole War (1835–1842) before they were transferred across the gulf by boat and then walked West.
Cedar Key was an important port during the 1840s. One of the important exports from Cedar Key was cotton that came down the Suwannee River by boat to Cedar Key. In 1850 Congress appropriated funding for a lighthouse on Seahorse Key. Lieutenant George Meade helped design the lighthouse.
During the Civil War Union troops occupied Seahorse Key in 1862, and used it as a prison camp for the duration of the war. The lighthouse was put back into service after the war ended. The lighthouse building was tripled in size in 1905. Seahorse Key, including the lighthouse, became part of the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1929. Then in the 1950s the University of Florida leased 3.2 acres of the wildlife refuge, including the lighthouse, for use as a marine laboratory.
The Cedar Key Lighthouse is one of 30 lighthouses in the state of Florida. The lighthouse on Seahorse Key is the oldest standing lighthouse on the west coast of Florida.
For those interested there is a very interesting video about the new reproduction Fresnel lens at Seahorse Key www.artworks-florida.com/.
Cedar Key Lighthouse lit after 104 years
By Cindy Jo Ayers