“Keeping the Light: The History of the Key West Lighthouse” to be next KWAHS Happy Hour with the Historian Event
January 17, 2024 – (KEY WEST, FL). Raise a toast to Florida Keys history with Key West Art & Historical Society Curator and Historian Cori Convertito, Ph.D., on Monday, February 5, from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. during her popular “Happy Hour with the Historian” program at Comedy Key West, 218 Whitehead Street. Enjoy a complimentary draft beer, glass of house wine, or a soft drink while Convertito presents on the evening’s topic, “Keeping the Light: The History of the Key West Lighthouse” in celebration of the arrival of USCGC Barbara Mabrity for a brief port visit. The namesake of the vessel was the principal keeper at the lighthouse for thirty-eight years.
Almost immediately after the U.S. Navy established a base in Key West in 1823, the need for a lighthouse became evident. Erecting a lighthouse was essential in assuring the safe arrival of both military and commercial vessels navigating the shallow, reef-laden waters off the Florida Keys. The current lighthouse opened in January 1848 with a woman as its keeper; nearly unheard of during the nineteenth century. In the years following, the Key West Lighthouse underwent several upgrades including the installation of a Third Order Fresnel Lens, an extension to the tower which allowed the light to be seen from a greater distance, the addition of Keeper’s Quarters, and finally the electrification of the light.
“Our Key West Lighthouse is unusual for many reasons, most noticeable is the fact that it is located inland,” says Convertito. “Aside from the location, it is also distinctive in that it had a total of three female lighthouse keepers between 1826 and 1914. They resided on the property with their families and were responsible for grueling responsibilities to keep the lighthouse lit every night, even during treacherous conditions, including hurricanes.”
In 1969, the U.S. Coast Guard decommissioned the Key West Lighthouse since there was no longer a need for a full-time keeper due to technological advancements. Today, this sentinel of the sea stands as a museum dedicated to Key West’s maritime heritage and to the men and women who bravely kept the light burning through the threats of war and weather.
Happy Hour with the Historian is limited to 75 attendees; reserve your spot now at kwahs.org/hh-lighthouse - $12 for KWAHS members, $15 for non-members. This project is sponsored in part by the Department of State, Division of Arts and Culture, with additional support provided by The Helmerich Trust and Comedy Key West. For more information, contact Cori Convertito, Ph.D. at 305-295-6616 x507 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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