Below is the lighthouse as it stood in 1886 at Rebecca Shoal, a dangerous area West of Key West. At the time of construction it was the most exposed and most remote lighthouse ever built in the United States or Europe.
The Rebecca Shoal lighthouse was the last built in the keys. It was also the most remote located 43 miles West of Key West in very turbulent waters with no protection from storms.
Possibly more interesting, it proved to be the most difficult to build. It took a total of 34 years to build the einitial lighthouse. The first attempts at protecting the Rebecca Shoal area failed. Lt. George Gordon Meade who you may remember from your Civil War history nearly completed the first lighthouse in 1855 when a violent storm washed the entire structure away. Several more times work began but was always destroyed by storms before completion. Then in May 1873 a beacon was completed at the site but again was lost that October to another violent storm.
In 1886 the above lighthouse was completed and served continuously until 1953 when it was decommissioned.
The original light was moved to the present location in Key Largo in 1957 on the shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean. Sometime in the 1960’s the land in front of the lighthouse was filled moving it back from the shore about 100 yards.
Below is the lighthouse as it stands today on the Key Largo Lighthouse & Marina Property. The Rebecca Shoal Lighthouse was decommissioned and dismantled in 1953. The light was moved and relit at its present location in 1957.
In 2001 the Key largo Lighthouse was upgraded to a modern Metal Halide lamp. The Key Largo Lighthouse continues its 125 year occupation of guiding mariners every night. It is marked on all nautical charts and its light guides vessels into our narrow commercial channel.
After well over a century of service it continues its nightly watch, now marking a channel entrance that serves both commercial and pleasure craft .
Yes, the lighthouse is believed to be haunted by Cuban and American sailors who died on Rebecca Shoal, and possibly by two of the keepers who died at the lighthouse during its service at Rebecca Shoal. We know that in 1902, perhaps because of the extreme remoteness of the lighthouse, one of the keepers went out of his mind and either fell or jumped to his death.
Many thanks to author and historian Thomas W. Taylor for his research on this light.