Sand Key Light
Sand Key Light is located six nautical miles southwest of Key West, Florida, between Sand Key Channel and Rock Key Channel, two of the channels into Key West. It is located on a reef that is intermittently covered by sand. At times the key has been substantial enough to have trees, and in 1900 nine to twelve thousand terns nested on the island. At other times the island has been washed away completely. As of 1998, Sand Key was a sand bar with no vegetation. The first navigational light on Sand Key was a 60-foot brick tower built in 1827. The first keeper, John Flaherty, died in 1830, and his widow Rebecca became the keeper for the next 16 years. In 1844 a hurricane eroded part of the island, destroyed the keeper's house, and damaged the seawall, which took a year to repair. The Great Havana Hurricane of 1846 washed away the sand on the key, undermining and toppling the light tower. Rebecca Flaherty and five others in the lighthouse were killed. As the Key West Light had also been destroyed in the same storm, a ship, the Honey, was acquired and outfitted as a lightship to serve as the Sand Key Light until new lighthouses could be built. Due to efforts to reorganize the Lighthouse Board, Congress was slow to appropriate funds for the new lighthouses. A screw-pile foundation for a new light on Sand Key was begun in 1852. Funds ran out before the foundation was complete, and the contractor had to wait seven years for final payment. Later that year Lieutenant George Meade, who had completed construction of the Carysfort Reef Light, was placed in charge of construction of the Sand Key Light. The light tower was completed in 1853. This light was the first to use the hydraulic lamp designed by George Meade. The screw-pile foundation and open framework tower allowed the lighthouse to survive later hurricanes, including one in 1856 that completely washed away all of the island above water. The light was automated in 1938. In 1967 the first order Fresnel lens was removed and replaced by a fourth order lens. That in turn was removed in 1982 and replaced with a flash tube array. The tower was severely damaged in a fire in 1989, and the light was moved to a nearby temporary structure. An attempt was made to restore the structure of the tower in 1995, but the keeper's quarters were demolished in 1996. The light was returned to the tower in 1998.

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