The legendary towers that cast a beacon of light into low visibility skies so that sea going vessels of all stripes might return safely to shore are indeed rich treasure troves of history. The construction materials themselves reveal key technological developments of the era in which they were built, from the earliest stone foundations to modern use of steel and iron. Lighthouses spurred the development and pioneered the widespread installation of Fresnel lenses to powerfully focus beams of light. In every lighthouse, we have a snapshot of man's control and manipulation of the raw materials of the earth, evolving over time.
But lighthouses are more than just beautiful museum pieces and artifacts of the past. Even with the steady encroachment of high tech methods of steering ships into shore, lighthouses are still widely used on every coastline in the world, where they remain powerful working tools essential in both global commerce and human safety. Nowhere is this more important than in Florida, a state boasting over 1200 miles of coastline.
Florida's 15 public seaports are responsible for more than half a billion jobs and billions in revenue from cargo and personal transportation. This maritime economy was built in part by the humble lighthouse, which initiated an era of reliably safe travel and commerce by sea.
Florida faces an average of 10 tropical storms every hurricane season. That's a worst case scenario - imagine all of the misty mornings and rain-swept nights that greet the Florida coast every day of the year. Now consider that there are more than a million boats registered to Florida docks alone, plus the countless interstate and international vessels entering these waters daily. When you add these numbers up you'll find many, many ships being guided to safety every day of the year by these so called "relics," the lighthouses. Not too shabby for an old timer!
The beauty and grace of Florida lighthouses are known worldwide, contributing to the state's status as a magical tourist destination. There are more than 30 fully functional lighthouses still operating in Florida alone - for enthusiasts this is a dream come true. Perhaps the most famous and stately of all the Florida lighthouses can be found right here in the Ponce de Leon Inlet. Originally built all the way back in 1835, the beautifully restored Ponce Inlet lighthouse remains the tallest structure of its kind in Florida, at 175 feet. Centuries ago, the treacherous central Florida inlet was once the scene of many shipwrecks. But thanks to the strong clear light of this gorgeous tower of red-washed brick masonry, countless thousands of ships have been guided safely to land.
Today, the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse functions as a museum as well as a vital working component of Florida's coastal culture. Alongside its fellow lighthouses lining the Florida shores, this gentle giant is an invaluable living historical record and friend of the sea, not to mention a charming sight for any traveler's eyes