Editor’s note: This is another in a continuing series on local pioneers and local history. This is the last story looking at the beginnings, the building specifications, for lighthouses in the area.
These next few weeks, I'll be sharing some letters about our local lighthouses.
This could not have been completed without giving "thanks" first to Mark Curenton and the Apalachicola Historical Society. Several years ago Mark let Marlene Womack and I go through boxes of old papers found in the cottage at the Raney House in Apalachicola.
These boxes covered many areas of local history, one folder covering our lighthouses, and I was lucky enough to get the chance to copy these files.
Two weeks ago we covered the Cape San Blas and the Cape St. George Lighthouses bids for rebuilding the lighthouses, this week, I'm sharing you letters from the descriptions/blue prints of how they wanted the houses and towers to be built.
As I said in the last story, both buildings were built alike.
“Superintendents were expected to oversee the actual construction of lighthouses, and ensure they were repaired when necessary. They would also mediate conflicts and deal directly, when necessary, with lighthouse keepers. Each superintendent was required to submit a yearly report detailing the status of light stations in his charge.”
Now back to the site selection and the building of a lighthouse.
Houses on Cape San Blas and the Cape St. George respectfully to be the following materials dimensions description:
The towers are to be built of hard brick, the form round, the foundation to be sunk 18 inches or more as maybe necessary to make the fabric secure and set on cypress or cedar of 4 inches thickness the height of the tower is to be sixty five feet from the surface of the ground. The diameter of the base 25 feet and that of the top 12 feet, the thickness of the walls at the base is to be 4 feet, and uniformly graduated to two feet at top. The top is to be arched, on which is to be laid a soap stone deck 14 1/2 feet in diameter, five inches thick and joints filled in with lead: on one side of the deck to be a scuttle 24 by 20 inches to enter the lantern. The door to be an iron frame, covered with copper. The outside and inside walls are to be laid in hydraulic cement and the outside wall white washed twice over. There are to be six windows in each tower of 12 lights each, 8 by 10 glass with strong frames and iron bar over each and a door 6 by 3 feet of double inch boards cross nailed with substantial hinges, lock and latch. The ground floor is to be secured with brick, a sufficient number of circular stairs to lead from the ground to within six feet of the lantern connected by a centre post and guarded by a good hand railing. The stairs and platforms to be of cypress or heart of pine planks 2 inches thick from the top of the stairs to the entrance.
The foundation was made of the old granite steps, there not being enough got out of the old towers for the new ones. The lantern to be an iron ladder with 2 1/2 inches wide.
The lantern and lighting apparatus now in use at the St. Joseph Point and the Cape St. George Islands’ are to be transferred to the new towers. The contractor E. Bowden to reglaze the said lanterns with French plate glass and paint them white inside and black outside. The Lantern posts are to be set five feet into stone or brick, and secured with anchors. The lantern and door to be revisited, and repaired whenever necessary for security, and the whole put in a proper condition for lighting. The contractor being allowed the privilege of using all materials now in the old towers which are deemed suitable and proper by the Superintendent of the works. Each Light House is to be furnished with a complete Electrical conductor with joints to run 4 feet into the grounds.
Dwelling Houses for the Keepers are to be built at each place each to be 35 feet by 20, foundation of hard brick walls one foot thick laid 18 inches below the surface of the ground and canned 2 feet above, on which is to be laid a frame building sills 8 inches square, posts 11 feet high 4 by 8 inches, braced above and below, lower flooring joists and to be 2 by 8 inches, 18 inches apart, bridged chamber floor joist 2 by 6 inches apart to be laid so that the rooms finish 8 feet in the clear, sides and ends and roof to be boarded with good seasoned pine boards and shingled with the best cypress or juniper shingles 12 1/2 inches long laid not more than 4 inches to the weather on the roof, and five inches on the sides and ends. The house at each place to be divided into two rooms with an entry between 7 feet wide and a chimney in each end of each house, with a fire place in each room below, 3 windows in each room below of 12 inches, lights 10 by 12 glass. The stairs to lead from the entry to the attic, closet back of the stairs attic divided into two chambers with entry between 6 feet wide one of the chambers divided into 2 rooms, a lantern window in the entry and a window in each of the small rooms, and 2 in each of the large ones, of 12 lights each 10 by 8 glass, collared with lead as well as both the chimneys doors in front and back of the entry, one to lead into each of the parlor chambers and closet. The doors to be 4 planked one inches thick except the front and back doors which are to be 1 1/2 inches thick. The front with freeze light with a good lock, hinges and latch on each end a bolt on the back door. Parlor entry, chambers and closet to be latched and plastered and finished in a plane and substantial manner, gutters back and front of the houses made of tin or wood with trunks to lead off the water into a cistern an opening to be left in each side of the brick foundations 8 by 12 inches a piazza on front sides of each house 8 feet wide floors six inches below the sill of the door and the roof shingled as specified for the houses all the wood work except the roof to be painted with two coats of white lead and oil all the floors in the houses to be laid double, at a convenient distance from each dwelling is to be erected a frame kitchen 15 by 12 feet to stand each on 6 brick pillars 2 feet from the ground 10 feet post boarded and shingled roof like the dwelling, one third pitch, 2 windows in each 12 light 8 by 10 glass, one door a chimney for each with suitable fire place for cooking with crane trimmed and hooks the floor double the attic floor single and matched one window in each attic compact stairs or steps to go into the attic.
In the rear of each house a cistern is to be built of hard brick lined with Rowan cement, and large enough to contain 2500 gallons into which the rain gutters from the dwellings are to lead and the whole covered with a top and door of 2 inch pine plank seasoned and the said Bowden agrees to finish the towers, dwellings, cisterns, so as specified above at Cape San Blas by the 1st day March 1848 and those at Cape St. George by the 1st day of June 1848 for the sum of Thirteen thousand, four hundred dollars and the said Spencer one the part of the United States agrees to pay Bowden on completion and acceptance of the work, the above named sum of $13,400 dollars.
In witness where of we have here to set our hands and seals the day and date above written.
(Signed) Samuel W. Spencer (seal)
Signed Sealed and delivered
In the presence of
C. Houston District of Apalachicola
January 1st 1849
Cape St. George Island Lighthouse … 1848
Constructed by Edward Bowden in 1848; Conical tower constructed of brick and iron; 74 feet high.
Lighted in 1850; Deactivated in mid-1994.
Original lens: 15 fixed Lewis lamps with sixteen-inch reflectors; Winslow Lewis (1843). Third-order fixed Fresnel lens; Henry-LePaute (1857). Present: none. Focal plane: 72 feet.
Collapsed following Hurricane Dennis in 2005. The lighthouse has been reconstructed on St. George Island for public viewing.
Cape San Blas Lighthouse ….
Year Light First Lit: 1885
Is the Light Operational? NO
Date Deactivated: 1996
Foundation Materials: IRON PILING
Construction Materials: CAST IRON
Markings/Patterns: WHITE W/BLACK LANTERN
Shape: SKELETON AROUND SLENDER CYLINDER
Relationship to Other Structures: SEPARATE
Tower Height: 90
Original Optic: THIRD ORDER, FRESNEL
Year Original Lens Installed: 1859
Present Optic: THIRD ORDER, BIVALVE
Year Present Lens Installed: 1906
Height of Focal Plane: 101
Fresnel Lens Disposition: "BARBIER, BENARD ET TURENNE" THIRD ORDER BIVALVE LENS & CLOCKWORK MECHANISM STILL IN TOWER
Has tower been moved? YES, 1918