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HISTORY

Below you will find a brief history of the lighthouse and then a list of keepers at the bottom. For archived historical photographs, plans, and blueprints, please see the archives gallery.

Brief History

The Anclote Key lighthouse sits on the southern tip of Anclote Key, off the coast of Tarpon Springs, Florida at the mouth of the Anclote River. Tarpon Springs is a historical little town that today depends on tourism for its economy. It is well known for its sponges which are found on the bottom of the Anclote River and other places. A short boat ride and demonstration of the old sponge diving equipment can be an interesting trek. Walking through the shops and getting a taste of the Greek culture is a must see.

 

But in the midst of all this lies the quiet island of Anclote Key. The word Anclote is a Spanish word meaning anchor. The island is about 180 acres and around 4 miles long, not even a mile in width. The plural term Anclote Keys refers to the many smaller islands that lay on the island's northeastern side. Some of these islands are privately-owned. One of the larger of the group of small islands is Dutchman Key. Much of the 180 acres encompassed by Anclote Key is very damp and marshy, which makes it hard to travel around unless you walk along the sand beaches. The color of the water resembles that of the Florida Keys because it is a turquoise-color. The island's intercoastal side, or eastern side, has no beach. Instead, it has mangroves and mushy mud, almost like quicksand. The western side, or Gulf of Mexico side, however, is sandy from the waves. There are more of the taller trees on this side, like palms and pines rather than shrubs and mangroves. From the top of the lighthouse, you can actually see the distinct line in which the island is split between short shrubs and tall trees. The thing I like most about this quiet, peaceful paradise is that you can literally pull up to an un-inhabited part of the island, set up your chairs, and enjoy your own personal part of the beach.

 

The lighthouse also has a peaceful mood to it. It sits on the southern-fourth of the island near one of the island's several saltwater marshes. There is a walkway that leads from it to the southern tip of the island where a wharf and boat house once were.

 

The Lighthouse Board first requested $20,000 in 1884 for the construction of a lighthouse on Anclote Key similar to the structure that still stands at Cape San Blas, which cost $35,000. On August 4, 1886, the Lighthouse Board finally appropriated this $35,000 to build the lighthouse.

 

The lighthouse structure can be defined as a square-pyramid with a cylindrical stairway in the middle with a gallery on top, where the light is. Cast iron was the principle building material, as it only rusts on the surface, also slower-rusting than normal iron or steel. The tower was painted a reddish-brown color, similar to the weathered paint that still remains on the lighthouse today. The top of the lighthouse (gallery) was painted black. "Tension rods" or "struts" were used to hold four main supports (and other 4 that only ran halfway) together.

 

Construction on the lighthouse began in June 1887, later than the required date of March 1, 1886 because the barge carrying the metal work had sunk and the pieces had to be recovered. The lighthouse was completed and first lit on September 15, 1887. The first lens in the tower was a third-order Fresnel lighted by a kerosene lamp. The oil house was not built until 1894 and other walkways and the wharf were also built around this time.

 

The keeper's houses were north of the actual tower. They were two identical white clapboard wooden houses that were raised off of the ground incase of flood or encroaching tides. Each of the houses were assigned to the keeper's family and the assistant keeper's family.

 

A small cannon was kept on the island during the Spanish-American War, but was never used. Pigs were also kept on the island until a Cuban boat crew stole them. The keepers' jobs were very hard, mostly due to the mosquitoes that are definitely abundant. One famous entry in one of the keeper's log reads: "Baby was taken very sick at 5 p.m." "Baby boy died this morning at 2:30 o' clock. Keeper and wife went over to bury him." "Baby born. Keeper's wife. Bad weather." These entries hint that the keepers were very short and to the point.

 

The lighthouse was automated in 1952 and keepers no longer stayed on the island. During this time period was when vandalism began to take over. After the lens was un-reparably damaged, the lighthouse was decommissioned in 1984. The tall smokestack at the local power plant then served as a marker rather than the lighthouse. Modern technology also took over as GPS and satellites were beginning to slip into full swing. The keeper's dwellings and all other outbuildings were demolished, except for the oil house and the actual lighthouse tower. Not even a piece of glass remains in the empty windows. No lantern sits in the tower. Only the bare shell remains today.

 

But as time goes on, new hope continually arises for the dilapidated lighthouse. Over the past years, many things have happened. Over $1,000,000 has been granted to restore the lighthouse. A service dock has been completed and a boardwalk to the lighthouse to this dock should be complete soon. Work on a keeper's house will begin as soon as the boardwalk is complete. And early this year (2002), restoration and stabilization of the Anclote Key Lighthouse will begin. Maybe once again its light will shine out over the surroundings once again.

List of Keepers (compiled by Tim Johnson):

Principal Keepers:

1. James W Gardner. Served August 3, 1887 to February 12, 1888.

2. Samuel Edward Hope, Jr. Assistant keeper August 26, 1887 to February 12, 1888. Appointed to Principal Keepers position on February 2, 1888. Served as principal Keeper February 12, 1888 to October 1, 1889. Ed Hope was the son of Captain Samuel Hope, hero of the civil war and first landowner in Anclote Area.

3. James M Baggett. Appointed assistant Sept. 12, 1888. Served November 1888 to October 1,1889. Appointed Principal Keeper, October 1, 1889. Served October 1, 1889 to July 11, 1891. Dr. Baggett was a dentist, the first to be certified in Florida in 1887. He also helped found the West Hillsborough Times Newspaper, which was a precursor to the St. Petersburg Times! James M. Baggett married Clara Virginia Hope (a daughter of Capt. Samuel E. Hope) on January 11, 1888, at Anclote, Florida [info courtesy William L. Vinson].

4. Robert S. Meyer. Appointed Assistant October 10, 1889, served October 1, 1889 to July 11 1891. Appointed Principal Keeper July 1, 1891, served July 11, 1891 to March 1, 1914 And July 1, 1923 to February 28, 1933. Note: during intervening years, lived in Anclote on the mainland and remained keeper of the Anclote River Lights during this period. Therefore he served as a keeper from October 1889 to February 1933, a total of 43 years!! Robert was the son of Ben Franklin Meyer, who with his brother Frederick bought land from Captain Hope, and founded the Community of Anclote. Robert S. Meyer married Ellen King, who was the sister of Leila King Vinson, and sister-in-law of Levin Denton Vinson. [info courtesy William L. Vinson].

5. T. A. Moody. Served March 1, 1914 to July 1, 1923.

6. J. L. Pippin. Served March 1, 1933 to the end of 1947.

7. Charles Eldon

Note: When the Coast Guard took over the Lighthouse System in 1939, Coast Guard personnel served with Mr. Pippin on site, taking three month duty shifts until the end of the Second World War. After Mr. Pippin left, the site was maintained by rotating Coast Guard Personnel until the Light was automated in 1952. After this, no one lived any longer at the site. The Keeper's houses fell into disrepair until a fire by vandals destroyed the structures in 1969.

 

Assistant Keepers:

1. Samuel Edward Hope, Jr. See above.

2. Jordan W. Hope (temp.) Served February 12,1888 to October 11, 1888 Ed. Hope's nephew.

3. James M. Baggett. See above.

4. Robert S. Meyer. See above.

5. (Oscar) Thompson. Served July 13, 1891 to June 19, 1892. Note: Not sure of first name.

6. George M. Angus. Appointed June 1, 1892, served June 19, 1892 to April 2, 1898. Was injured when he fell off front porch of Assistant Keepers House. Was hospitalized in tarpon Springs, where he later died.

7. Thomas S Coleman. Appointed April 2, 1898. Served April 3, 1898 to April 5, 1901.

8. B. F. Meyer (temp.) Served April 5 to May 5, 1901 Robert Meyer's Brother or Nephew.

9. John Peterson. Appointed April 15, 1901. Served May 5, 1901 to September 30, 1904.

10. David D, Klingner. Appointed October 1, 1904. Served October 23, 1904 to February 15, 1911.David's family lived in Pinellas Point in St Petersburg.

11. Osborn C. Johnson. Appointed Feb 15, 1911. Served February 15, 1911 to June 30, 1912.

12. Clifton A. Lopez. Served July 4, 1912 to March 1, 1914.

13. E. R. Washington. Served March 1, 1914 to January 19, 1920.

14. G. B. Watkins. Served March 1, 1920 to March 15, 1923.

Note: Assistant keeper post eliminated March 6, 1923 by Lighthouse Board.

 

SOURCES:

1. Logs of the Keepers of Anclote Keys Lighthouse. Courtesy of the National Archives Records Center, College Park, MD.

2. Sherman, William F.: Reference Service Report, "Keepers and Assistant Keepers of Anclote Keys Lighthouse, 1888-1912. Abstracted from a series of Personnel registers from Record group 26, of the Nation al Archives, Washington, DC. Courtesy of the National Archives.