The reception could not have been warmer.
Hundreds watched history unfold Tuesday as the Cape San Blas Lighthouse, for more than a century a fixture on the cape, was carried to its new home in Port St. Joe.
On schedule and with few hiccups other than some mangled traffic flows and brief power outages as utility workers dropped lines and put them back up on either side of the convoy.
“That was the most organized operation I have ever seen,” said Port St. Joe resident Ann White.
The lighthouse, two keepers’ quarters and oil house, comprising a convoy over 900 feet long and two lanes wide, were moved in a daylong process that was observed, despite rain in the morning, by throngs that lined the roads and highways – or those folks unfortunate to get stuck behind the convoy on the path to Port St. Joe.
“It was watching history go by,” said Libia Taylor, whose realty office is on Cape San Blas Road.
The trip ended at First Baptist Church, where the structures were left overnight until moving to George Core Park.
On those last few miles and around the church parking lot the spectacle lured so many, including a number who came from out of town to witness, that organizers of the annual Christmas Parade would be jealous.
Throngs continued to visit the church parking lot until sunset, cameras and phones raised, children in tow.
Clay Smallwood of Preble Rish Engineers, the project manager on the move, said the last few hundred feet to George Core Park required downing one last power line that would have cut off power to most of downtown at dinner hour.
“We didn’t think that was a good idea,” said Smallwood, who received an extended round of applause at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Port St. Joe City Commission.
“The move went smoothly,” said Mayor Mel Magidson. “They did a marvelous job.”
The lighthouse will be lifted into position in the next week or so, Smallwood said.
Footers to accommodate the 100-foot, 60 ton lighthouse were poured two weeks ago in anticipation of the move. Ground preparation for the ancillary buildings was completed prior to pouring the lighthouse footers.
Tuesday’s show began at 8 a.m. ET as the convoy traveled from the lighthouse’s location of more than 100 years, down Cape San Blas Road toward State 30-A.
The Cape San Blas Lighthouse came under threat after Hurricane Isaac washed away a significant amount of shoreline the summer of 2012.
Eglin Air Force Base, which owns the property on which the lighthouse sat, declared the structure surplus in 2012.
The process of moving the lighthouse has taken nearly two years and plenty of debate between city and county officials in addition to a vocal contingent from the Cape that wished to see it relocated to Salinas Park on Cape San Blas Road.
There were a few signs along Cape San Blas Road protesting the move, one saying “Mayor Mel’s Folly” referring to Magidson.
But Tuesday night Magidson said that he believed most county officials did not want the structure.
The lighthouse had been leased by the county in order to save and preserve it. That lease was nullified when the lighthouse was deemed surplus. The Board of County Commissioners and city of Port St. Joe submitted applications for ownership of the lighthouse.
In December 2012 the Department of the Interior deeded the lighthouse and buildings to the city.
The city raised more than $700,000 for the structure’s relocation through private fundraising campaigns as well as over $500,000 in state appropriations.
“We as a community decided this (Port St. Joe) was the best place for it,” said Port St. Joe resident Dit Butler.
Star Staff Writer Wes Locher contributed to this report