Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Thinking ahead to my next trunk show in March 2010 at Needle Nicely in Vero Beach, Florida, I've decided to adapt the Jupiter Inlet lighthouse as my next project.
The site for the lighthouse was originally surveyed by Robert E. Lee; a design was submitted in the mid-1850s by Lt. George Meade of the Bureau of Topographical Engineers. Ironically, these two men would meet less than 10 years later as commanders of opposing armies at the Battle of Gettysburg, with then-General Meade emerging as victor.
Construction of the lighthouse under Meade's supervision did not go smoothly. An uprising of members of the Seminole tribe halted work until 1858. The Jupiter Inlet then silted over, causing stagnant water to accumulate around the site and creating a breeding ground for mosquitoes. "Jupiter Fever," a cross between malaria and yellow fever, ensued and brought about a considerable loss of lives.
Finally in 1860, the tower reached its height of 125 feet and a first-order Fresnel lens, with a characteristic flashing white light visible from 25 miles away, was lit. The light was extinguished little more than a year later when raiding Confederate soldiers stole the lens and hid it in a nearby creek. It was reinstated in 1866.
Various restoration projects at the lighthouse occurred in subsequent years, but it wasn't until 1999-2000 that a major renovation took place. Excavating the hill upon which the lighthouse stood, an incongruous 46-foot elevation in an otherwise-flat terrain, workers uncovered shells and pottery fragments. Archeologists later determined the artifacts were remains of a Native American colony dating to circa 700 A.D.
A grant made possible by the economic stimulus package was designated just this year for the lighthouse and surrounding land, and will be used for lighthouse maintenance and habitat restoration. So the bright red tower will once again undergo a facelift!