The lighthouse has existed since January 1826, although it collapsed during a storm 20 years later and had to be rebuilt. In the 1870s, 5 feet of height was added to the structure to improve visibility. (Indeed, our Ernest Hemingway House tour guide told us that the writer used the lighthouse -- which is right across the street from his residence -- to guide him while returning home after a late night of imbibing on Duval Street.)
The lighthouse is among several that adorn the nation's southern and eastern coasts. The $10 admission ($1 discounts for seniors and military personnel) enables you to climb the lighthouse and enjoy the panoramic view of the island, as well as tour the adjacent keeper's quarters.
The keeper's quarters is filled with historical information, photos and exhibits (including a 15-minute video) about the lighthouse and stories about its keepers. It includes photos and exhibits about the other lighthouses situated along the Keys and rest of the Florida coast. The museum has a gift shop, too.
A few blocks to the southeast is the large conical land-anchored buoy that designates the alleged southern-most point in the continental United States (the Hawaiian islands are quite a ways south of the Keys).
Sticklers for truth and accuracy -- actually, anyone who can read a map -- will note that the marker really doesn't appear to be the southern-most point even in the Keys; Whitehead Spit, a cape west of the touristy buoy at South and Whitehead streets, appears to be significantly south of the designated point. But it possibly is, however, the southern-most point that is publicly accessible, i.e., a place to draw tourists without trampling on private property.
Photo geek stuff: Everything in this post was taken with my Canon 6D equipped with a Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di PZD VC lens, which was equipped with a 67mm B&W polarizing filter. I bracketed most compositions for three exposures that I processed in Photomatix high-dynamic range (HDR) software.
And as usual, if you'd like to see a larger, sharper version of an image, click on the image. This is particularly important if you access the blog using a mobile device. I've devoted a full gallery to my Key West Lighthouse shots at my site at SmugMug.com. The few shots I took to the visit to the southern-most point can be found in my Key West gallery.
Above and below: The entrance to the museum gift shop from the modest parking lot. Below is a closeup of the keeper figurine, next to which one visitor felt it was important to take a selfie.
Above: A good amount of exhibits and historical information is devoted to illustrating and explaining the evolution of lenses used in the beacon portion of the lighthouse.
Above: A lighthouse staffer wore this souvenir T-shirt illustrating the various lighthouses that can be found along the Southeast Atlantic Coast. It enticed me enough to get one for myself.
Above and below: The lighthouse and its interior stairwell.
Above: I grabbed this shot of another sculpted figure before I ascended the stairwell. Some people don't notice it until they make the return trip.
Above is one of the shots I got from the lighthouse balcony at the top. This view looks toward Mallory Square to the northwest. Below, a shot through a stairwell portal near the top of the stairs, a view looking mostly west but a little south.
Yet another view from the top (above and below), which not only allows one to enjoy the water views from afar, but also detail of the island neighborhoods. The neighborhood seen in the second photo below looks east on Whitehead Street toward the southern-most point marker, which is only a block or two from where the picture ends on the right.
Above and second below: Different views and crops of the same general area, Whitehead Point, which is explained in one of the many informational sight-line markers at the top of the lighthouse. These markers point out landmarks and explain what viewers see from the various vantage points on the balcony.
Above and below: Two of the informational exhibits inside the keeper's quarters.
Landscaping on the lighthouse grounds (above) and, below in the distance, the keeper's quarters.
Above and next three below: The southern-most point marker is such a popular (and free) attraction that there are lines of people waiting to get their chance to take pictures and/or selfies, so the unobstructed view of the buoy (above) is a rarity.
Above and next two below: While waiting in line for the obligatory selfie at the marker, I shot these scenes. The first below is a ground-lever view of the landmark at Whitehead Point that I'd first seen on the balcony of the lighthouse. The statue is part of the plaza decor where the marker buoy is located.
I shot the above and below photos on the return trip from the southern-most point marker. The biker is headed onto the Naval Air Station adjacent to Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. Florida charges $9 per adult admission to its state parks, and I wasn't in a mood to spend the money and time to check it out that day. There were other things to see, and next up -- after lunch at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Cafe on Duval Street -- was a stop at Mallory Square on the opposite side of the island, where I'd indulge one of four opportunities to witness and photograph a sunset during my two-week stay in the Keys.
Next up: Mallory Square at sunset