On November 1, 1887, at about dusk, Mosquito Inlet Lighthouse Principal Keeper William R. Rowlinski climbed the 213 steps of the tall, red brick giant to its lantern room. Rowlinski proceeded to light the five-concentric-wick kerosene lamp to inaugurate the first night of service for what is now known as the Ponce DeLeon Inlet Lighthouse. The brilliant, fixed white light blazed forth from the Barbier & Fenestre first-order lens.
In 1970, after more than 80 years of service, the U.S. Coast Guard decommissioned the station and formulated plans to demolish the structures and use the rubble as an artificial reef. A group of Ponce Inlet residents, alarmed by the potential loss of so much local and national history, formed the Ponce DeLeon Lighthouse Preservation Association, saved the tower and keepers’ residences from the wrecking ball, and has managed and operated the station as an attraction and museum ever since. Restoration continues to this day, and as a result, in 1998 the once dilapidated station was recognized as a National Historic Landmark, one of only 12 historic United States lighthouses to be so honored. Welcoming more than 175,000 visitors each year, the station is acknowledged as one of the best preserved and most representative light stations in the nation.
Today, that beacon continues to shine as a silent sentinel helping mariners navigate the dangerous Florida coast. In honor of that first lighting, a year-long, 130th Anniversary Celebration, hosted by the Preservation Association, begins with a festive evening on Friday evening, November 10, 2017, at the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse and Museum .
Submitted by Society Member John F. Mann, Lead Docent, Ponce Inlet Lighthouse and Museum, August 10, 2017
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