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BOCA GRANDE LIGHTHOUSE MUSEUM AND VISITORS CENTER
We recently spent a few days away on the Gulf Coast and while there one of the places we visited was the Boca Grande Lighthouse Museum and Visitors Center. It is situated on Gasparilla Island State Island Park which marks the deep water channel into Port Charlotte.
It was built in 1890 and was manned continuously until the early 1950s when it was automated and control of it was taken over by the US Coastguard Agency. It was in use until the mid 1960s when it was closed down due to coastal erosion the building was falling into disrepair despite frequent attempts by the authorities to built artificial sea walls, none of which had any lasting effect. . There were two buildings there, the main lighthouse in which the lighthouse keeper and his family lived and then there was another building for the Assistant Lighthouse Keepers House.
In the 1970s the Lighthouse and the surrounding 13 acres were taken over by Lee County and a long programme of restoration began. Funds were raised, the beach was reinforced with sand from the dredging of Port Charlotte Harbour, sea defences were built. In the 1980s a committee was formed with the sole intention of preserving the Lighthouse and creating a museum of not only the Lighthouse but also of the history of the surrounding area. Funds were raised from the State and from private individuals and then in the mid 1980s it was recomissioned as a working lighthouse and ownership passed from Lee County to the State of Florida. The committee continued raising funds to open the museum and in 1999 this was opened.
The museum covers a wide range from the original native Indians of Florida, the Caloosa, the arrival of the Spanish, the development of the fishing trade, the export of the fish originally to Cuba, then in the early 1900s to the rest of the US. The export of phosphates from Port Charlotte, a trade which built up to over 100, 000 tons a month until it ceased in the 1980s is also covered, likewise the fishing of tarpon, this continues today and we saw many small boats out in the harbour doing this very thing.
The last room in the museum is the obligatory shop which sells tee-shirts which I have never seen before. The first impression is that they are white with a black motif on them. However when exposed to sunlight they become colourful. An unusual souvenir to take home.
We rounded off our visit with a quick swim in the sea followed by a delicious lunch at the South Beach Bar and Grill. All-in-all a very relaxing day out.
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