Most Floridians are familiar with the iconic St. Augustine Lighthouse, but St. Petersburg residents might be surprised to learn they have their own historic lighthouse much closer to home. And if it’s up to Richard Sanchez,the lighthouse on Egmont Key will someday be as wellknown as its northeastern neighbor.Richard, president of the Egmont KeyAlliance (EKA), has come up with a way to raise part of the $1.2 million needed to restore this local treasure to its former glory by offering everyone an opportunity to become apart of history.
“There’s something fascinating and romantic about lighthouses,” Richard says. “They’re a throwback to a bygone time when they were navigation aids and were important to the development of an area. We were looking for a way to connect our community and the lighthouse. We’d seen commem- orative brick programs in so many places, so we decided to do what these other organizations have done.” Richard uses “commemorative” rather than “memorial” to describe the bricks so that someone could remember a person or event whatever the circumstances.
The bricks sell for $50 (4”x8”) or $100 (8”x8”) and are laser-engraved, fade resistant and guaran- teed for life. They will be placed in the patio area north of the Coast Guard flagpole. “We’ve gotten a good response from organizations like the Tierra Verde Business Partnership and individu- als from all over the country,” Richard says. “Some are poignant, honoring the loss of a family member, some have been funny, like the one from a volunteer who liked gopher tortoises that reads ‘Old Gophers Rule.’ Each brick tells its own story.”
The 76-foot lighthouse was first built on Egmont Key in 1847-48, only 27 years after Florida was granted statehood, to handle the increased commerce in the Gulf of Mexico. Constructed of brick, concrete and iron, the
The original structure had to be dismantled ten years later because of storm damage. A second tower was constructed that stood 87-feet tall and had three-foot thick brick walls. While this lighthouse withstood over 150 years of assaults by Mother Nature, the lamp house was eventually removed and replaced with an automated beacon light. This has since been updated to an LED strobe that flashes every 15 seconds. In November 2008, the lighthouse was given a new coat of paint to celebrate its 150th birthday. In 2013, restoration began on the lens pedestal.
One of the biggest expenses involved in restoration is replacing the original building materials. “Since steel didn’t exist in 1888, the lighthouse was made with cast iron,” Richard explains. “All the pieces will need to be recast. There’s a man in St. Pete who does this, but it’s expensive. And eventually we want to put the original top back on.” This will restore the lighthouse to its original appearance.
Despite the cost and complexity of the project, Richard believes it is worth the investment. “The Egmont Key Lighthouse is something unique to the area,” he says. “Of Florida’s 29 lighthouses, ours is one of only 20 accessible to the public. It could become a symbol of Tampa Bay. It’s seen so much of Florida’s history, and it’s still there, after all these years, doing pretty much what it’s been doing all along.”
For more information or to purchase a commemorative brick, go to www.egmontkey.info. Scroll down to DONATE and click “Commemorative Bricks.”