TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) – The Forgotten Big Bend Coast. Home to three lighthouses that guided sailors through dangerous shoals stretching from Dog Island to St. George Island.
Each lighthouse, holding its own secrets. Some, having resisted since before the civil war.
The first is the Crooked River Lighthouse, which was built entirely of iron to withstand hurricanes in 1895. Before electricity, lighthouses relied on a special optic called a Fresnel lens.
âA Fresnel lens, you know, it’s the stacked glass prisms that were invented in Europe and they became the main way to project light the way you could,â explained curator and program developer Joan Matey.
Light was essential for sailors navigating the shallows surrounding the barrier islands.
Next is the Marks Lighthouse in County Wakulla. Workers began construction of this lighthouse in 1829. It is one of the oldest lighthouses in Florida.
The Saint-Marc Lighthouse we see today is the same as it was during the Civil War, when the refuge that surrounded it was a battlefield.
Salt boiled on the swamps was essential for the Confederates, who needed salt to preserve their food.
Union soldiers fought relentlessly to keep the resource in the South.
“Every night in particular the Union ships could see fires and they would target all of these salt sewers and destroy them and in the morning people would go straight back in and rebuild them,” said Constance Clineman, ranger of visitor services. at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.
Those who collected the salt were exempt from military service.
The final monument is the Cape St. George Island Lighthouse. This lighthouse was recently rebuilt after collapsing into the sea in October 2005.
But rather than leaving it as an artificial reef, the residents of St. George’s Island chose to restore the landmark.
Volunteers collected and hand cleaned the bricks from the fallen lighthouse, building a new one in the center of the island.
âWhen we rebuilt it here, we went back to its original plans from the National Archives and used as many,â said Amy Hodson, executive director of the St. George Lighthouse Association. “We got an architect to flesh out the details a bit into a more buildable plan to rebuild the lighthouse, but they used the original stairs as they were in the original incarnation of the lighthouse.”
The lighthouses of North Florida now stand in the present, illuminating the past.
The Crooked River Lighthouse and the St. George Island Lighthouse are both open to visitors. But the Saint-Marc Lighthouse Museum is still closed due to the pandemic.
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