ISLAMORADA, Fla. (AP) — A 148-year-old Florida Keys lighthouse could get a new life now that a community organization is poised to take ownership and begin a massive preservation project.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland has approved a recommendation from the National Park Service that Islamorada-based Friends of the Pool Inc. be granted ownership of Alligator Reef Lighthouse under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act. The non-profit organization announced the approval Tuesday.
“Alligator Reef Lighthouse has stood since 1873,” project organizer Rob Dixon said. “It’s an important part of Islamorada’s local history.
“It’s our Statue of Liberty and needs to be saved.”
Dixon said the restoration project is likely to take five to seven years and cost up to $9 million.
“We’re going to need a lot of fundraising help and a lot of technical help,” Dixon said.
Friends of the Pool hosts an annual eight-mile swimming race to the offshore lighthouse and back to fund collegiate scholarships. The effort to save the lighthouse and to start the “Swim for Alligator Lighthouse” event was conceived by Larry Herlth, an Islamorada metal artisan who created detailed replicas of Alligator Reef Lighthouse and other Keys lighthouses.
“The six lighthouses off the Florida Keys are the biggest collection of iron piling lighthouses anywhere in the world,” Herlth said. “The history is just phenomenal.”
Alligator Reef Lighthouse is named after the USS Alligator, a U.S. Navy schooner that ran aground on the reef in 1822 and sank.