Since its move to Port St. Joe four years ago, the Cape San Blas Lighthouse has been seen as the potential anchor for a broader expression of the local maritime history.
The Joseph Historical Society, a non-profit which has spearheaded efforts to save the lighthouse for decades, has taken the initial steps to make that vision tangible.
A fundraising campaign is underway to raise the money to bring the original lighthouse lens back to the community for display as part of a maritime museum.
The museum would ultimately be housed in what is known as the Eglin keepers’ quarters, which has been restored in the past year.
The lighthouse gift shop is within the keepers’ quarters known as “Sleeping Beauty.”
The lens, a Barbier, Benard & Tourenne third-order bi-valve Fresnel, was constructed in Paris, France in 1905.
That was the same year the lighthouse keepers’ quarters were built.
By Coast Guard edict, a lens removed from a lighthouse, as the Fresnel was prior to the 2014 relocation off the eroding shoreline of Cape San Blas, it can not be reinstalled in the lighthouse.
However, the lens may be reassembled and displayed, per an agreement between Coast Guard, city of Port St. Joe and historical society, as part of the lighthouse complex.
The fundraising goal is $75,000, with donation levels from $10 to $50,000.
All contributions are tax-deductible.
“This will provide for reassembling of the lens, establishment of a maritime museum with displays for the lens, relics from the lighthouse and keepers’ quarters and items from the Cape San Blas Coast Guard station,” said St. Joseph Historical Society president Charlotte Pierce.
The museum will include an interactive exhibit focusing on the maritime history of the area.
A designated fund has been established at Capital City Bank.
There is nearly two centuries of history surrounding the Cape San Blas Lighthouse, which was first built in 1847 with $8,000 appropriated by Congress.
The lighthouse served as an alert for a dangerous shoal off the coast.
Over the next 40 years or so, three lighthouse structures were lost to the eroding shoreline and major storms.
The current lighthouse structure was erected in 1885 and relocated once due to erosion.
That structure was followed by construction of the keepers’ quarters about 20 years later and the oil house, a brick structure built in 1918.
The light was decommissioned in 1996 and two years later the keepers’ quarters moved closer to the lighthouse and away from the vanishing shoreline.
In collaboration with the Board of County Commissioners, the St. Joseph Historical Society entered into an agreement to lease the lighthouse from Eglin Air Force Base in the early 2000s.
In 2012, the lighthouse and ancillary structures were moved further inland and two years later, citing the erosion in the area of the lighthouse, Eglin declared the land surplus.
The Department of Interior awarded the lighthouse to the city of Port St. Joe and in July 2014 the entire complex was moved the 12.1 miles to George Core Park, a sight to behold.
The Cape San Blas Lighthouse Complex was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2105, joining what is now the Garden Club Center on Eighth Street, the Old St. Joseph Cemetery on Garrison and Port Theatre on the list.
For questions or additional information contact Pierce at firstname.lastname@example.org or Linda Graham Wood of the historical society at email@example.com.