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Curbed Miami Goes Up the Cape Florida Lighthouse

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Photos by Raquel Zaldivar

Built on the tip of Key Biscayne, the Cape Florida Lighthouse is recognized as the oldest structure in South Florida (except for that 800-plus year old Spanish monastery shipped over here by William Randolph Hearst, but that's another story). The Cape Florida Lighthouse is also the only lighthouse ever attacked by American Indians, a dramatic episode that almost resulted in the destruction of the entire structure in flames, explosions, and a barrage of bullets.

In 1836 a band of Seminole Indians attacked the tower with only the assistant light keeper John W. Thompson and a handyman in residence to defend it. Retreating to the top of the tower, and running out of options, the assistant threw a keg of gun powder down the shaft in a last desperate effort to 'end his misery'. Neither the tower or the assistant tower keeper's lives ended that day however (although the handyman's did), as the explosion did not destroy the tower but did lead the Indians to believe Thompson to be dead, thereby retreating.

Having been extinguished in 1878 when it was replaced by the Fowey Rocks Lighthouse, the light was relit twice, the first time a hundred years later in 1978 and then, having been repaired after serious damages in Hurricane Andrew, again in 1996. The restored lighthouse and reconstructed keeper's cottage are open Thursdays through Mondays for tours. Curbed photog Raquel Zaldivar went to have a look.


· Cape Florida [Lighthousefriends.com]
· Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park [Florida State Parks]