|Built 1905 - 1907, Registered February 1974|
Web Address: http://www.hillsborolighthouse.org
The Hillsboro Light, which marks the northern limit of the Florida Reef, has long been a welcome navigation sight to seafarers traveling along the Atlantic Ocean since 1907. The Hillsboro Light has cast the brightest light of any lighthouse in Florida throughout most of the 20th century. The Hillsboro Light structure and complex have a unique history and have been well preserved. In 1904, the overall drawing for the proposed lighthouse at the Hillsboro Inlet was approved and signed by the “Office of the Lighthouse Engineer.” It was to be an octagonal pyramid iron skeletal tower with a cylindrical central staircase. “In 1905 the Russell Wheel and Foundry of Detroit, Michigan, was awarded the contract for the ironwork at the price of $24,000.” An existing lighthouse on the coast of Cape Fear, North Carolina served as a basis for the design.
The structure was first assembled to check for soundness and then taken apart and shipped. The fabricated metal components were moved by a steamer down the Mississippi River, into the Gulf of Mexico, and then to the Hillsboro Inlet. “Erection of the lighthouse was awarded to a New Orleans contractor, J. H. Gardner, for $16,729.” The lighthouse stands 142 feet high. In 1905 the support buildings around the lighthouse were constructed including three two-story homes for the lighthouse keeper, his assistant, their families, and a barn for each family.
“In 1906 a contract was awarded to Barbier, Benard and Turenne of Paris, France, for ‘one second order flashing lens’ at a price of $7,250. The clamshell “bivalve” design of the Fresnel lens was revolutionary and “gave a brilliant light equivalent to the light from 550,000 candles. It was installed in 1907 and the first keeper, Captain A. A. Burgell, was appointed. The first lamp was fueled by kerosene which had to be carried up to the top of the lighthouse. After electricity became available during the 1920s, the lantern was replaced by four 250-watt bulbs. This improvement increased the light to 2,500,000 candlepower, making Hillsboro one of the most powerful lights in the United States, with its beam visible twenty-eight miles out to sea.”
“After the United States entered World War II, a crew barracks was built and armed Coast Guardsmen patrolled the beach on horseback, and lookouts with binoculars manned the platforms on top of the lighthouse towers.” “The top, or light and watchtower, is reached by a winding iron stairway on the inside of the tower, secure from the wind and weather.” There are 175 steps to the lantern room. The stairs wind inside the center of the 9-foot diameter column. In 1995 an extensive restoration of the lighthouse took place and in 1998 the Fresnel lens was restored. It had originally been suspended in toxic mercury but now is turned by a ball bearing system.
The property on which the lighthouse sits is surrounded by the private and exclusive Hillsboro Club. Access to the property is denied to non-members.” The tower and grounds are not open to the public except by special arrangements with the US Coast Guard and the Hillsboro Lighthouse Preservation Society.