Fowey Rocks Lighthouse
Backstory and Context
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2011, the Fowey Rocks Lighthouse, once called the “Eye of Miami,” is one of a group of six skeletal lighthouses constructed on the Florida Reef between 1852 and 1880. The Cape Florida light at the southern tip of Key Biscayne was built in 1825. Ships did not need to be warned of the island but rather of the reef that lay five miles offshore. In 1875 the Lighthouse Board decided to extinguish the Cape Florida Light and appropriated funds to have one built instead at Fowey Rocks. The Board supervised the architectural drawings for the new cast iron, octagonal, skeletal tower constructed on piles screwed into the coral below. In 1877 the Lighthouse Board contracted with Paulding and Kemble, of Cold Spring, New York, to provide materials and labor to build the bottom of the tower, and with Pusey Jones and Company, of Wilmington, Delaware, to complete the structure, which stands in about four feet of water and rises 110 feet above the sea. Completed in 1878, the keeper's house which sits within the skeletal structure is a two-story octagonal building in the Second Empire-style. Rising from the center of the house is a 50-foot-tall enclosed spiral stairwell leading up to the service room, the watch room, and the lantern room.
The original First Order Fresnel lens was built in Paris and shipped to the United States in 1876. That year it formed the centerpiece of the Lighthouse Board's display at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia before being transported to Florida for installation at Fowey Rocks. It was lit for the first time in the summer of 1878 and manned until 1974 when it was the last lighthouse on the Florida keys to be automated. A decade later the lens was removed and placed on display at the Coast Guard’s National Aids to Navigation School in Yorktown, Virginia. Located within the Biscayne National Park boundaries, in 2012 Fowey Rocks Lighthouse was transferred from the Coast Guard to the National Park Service through the covenants of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act.