Over the course of the lighthouse’s 144-year service it has been exposed to the harsh elements that come from being located in the remote Gulf of Mexico which has led to its prominent decay in recent years. Apart from the hot sun, high winds, and salty air on a day to day basis, the lighthouse has also weathered several major hurricanes during its lifetime. While impressive that it has continued to stand for so long, the iron that composes the 37-foot lighthouse has corroded along several key parts of the structure.
The lighthouse, also known as Tortugas Harbor Light, helped guide ships around the dangerous waters after several crashes occurred in the area. While the original light on Garden Key was built in 1824, after many complaints from sailors for it not being bright enough, and severe damage from hurricanes, Congress allowed for a new lighthouse to be built, which is the one we know today. The project was approved in 1875, take a year to build, and cost $5,000 (around $120,000 in 2020).
According to the National Park Service the plan to restore the Lighthouse will involve 3 phases that include the Disassembly, Repair, and Reassembly of the building.
Phase 1: A crew will come out to the remote island and break down the lighthouse piece by piece and transport the materials back to mainland Florida.
Phase 2: Once on the mainland, it will be sent to a conservation facility where the main repairs to the lighthouse will be made.
Phase 3: After the individual pieces have been repaired, the pieces will then be shipped back out to Garden Key and reassembled on the island following certain guidelines to maintain accurate historic preservation.
Dry Tortugas is a unique and beautiful National Park, and a project like this is just what it needs to maintain its historical importance for visitors in the many years to come.