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Garden Key

Garden Key/Ft. Jefferson Harbor

Photo courtesy of the
Florida Division of Historical Resources.

    In 1825, a 65-foot tall tower was completed on Bush Key, now called Garden Key, in the Dry Tortugas. Its light consisted of 23 lamps in 14-inch reflectors but, situated miles from the surrounding reefs, it soon caused mariners to complain that it was not bright enough. Construction began in 1847 on Fort Jefferson, which covered the entire island and incorporated the lighthouse in its south wall. By 1856, a taller lighthouse was being constructed on nearby Loggerhead Key, and Garden Key light’s first-order lens was installed there in 1858. The old lighthouse was reduced to a harbor light with a fourth-order lens. Damaged in a 1873 hurricane, it was replaced by a new tower built of boiler-plate iron on top of the fort’s walls. After a 1912 fire in the keeper’s house, the light was automated until, in 1921, it was discontinued. Fort Jefferson, including the lighthouse, is a National Monument and is open to visitors.

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