Built in 1890 by the U.S. Lighthouse Service to mark the entrance into Charlotte Harbor from the Gulf of Mexico, the Boca Grande Lighthouse is the oldest building on Gasparilla Island and its most recognized landmark. The lighthouse is the centerpiece of Gasparilla Island State Park. It is not only a working U.S.Coast Guard light, it is a museum of local history open to the public, known as the Boca Grande Lighthouse Museum. The museum was created by Barrier Island Parks Society and opened to the public in 1999. BIPS operates the museum with no funds from the state.
Lighthouse keepers and their families lived and worked in the lighthouse - and in the adjacent assistant lightkeeper's house - from 1890 until 1951. The U.S. Coast Guard automated the light in 1956. Ten years later, in 1966, the Coast Guard removed the light from the building, which was deteriorating due to neglect and beach erosion. In 1972 Lee County took over ownership of the lighthouse and surrounding 13 acres, and began a long process to save the building.
The lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, and in 1985-86 the Gasparilla Island Conservation and Improvement Association (GICIA) funded its total restoration with help from the State of Florida and local citizens. In 1986 the lighthouse was re-commissioned as a working Coast Guard light, and in 1988 the lighthouse and surrounding acreage was transferred from Lee County to the State of Florida and became Gasparilla Island State Park.
Characteristics: Occulting white light every four seconds.
Height: 44 feet, 60 steps
DayMark: White frame dwelling with green shutters and a black lantern tower
History: Built 1890. First Lighted December 31, 1890. Deactivated 1966-1986. On National Register Listing.
Lens: Original: third-and-a-half-order revolving Fresnel lens. Present: 300mm drum lens. Focal Plane: 41 feet.
Construction: Architect and Builder unknown. House-style lighthouse on iron pilings constructed of wood and iron.
Other Buildings: Assistant keeper's house, two cistern, generator shed, replica boardwalk.
Operated by: Florida State Park Service
Location: Barrier Islands Geo Park
Visit Status: Open to Public
Days Open: Wednesday through Sunday
Facilities: Museum, Gift Shop, handicap accessible
Hours Open: 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
Visitor Info: Closed during month of August. Grounds open with access through Barrier Islands Geo Park. A new museum in the lighthouse was opened on March 12, 1999.
Admission: $3.50 toll to get on Island plus $2.00 parking fee.