The Key West Lighthouse and Keeper's Quarters represent an iconic historical site. Not long after the establishment of a U.S. Navy base in Key West in 1823, the necessity for a lighthouse to ensure the safe passage of military and commercial vessels through the Florida Keys' treacherous, reef-filled waters became apparent. The present lighthouse, which opened in 1848, broke societal norms by appointing a woman as its Keeper, a rarity during the 19th century. Over the following years, the lighthouse underwent several enhancements:
- The implementation of a Third Order Fresnel Lens
- An extension of the tower to expand the light's visibility range
- The construction of Keeper’s Quarters
- The electrification of the light
These changes further underscored its pivotal role in maritime safety. In 1969, the U.S. Coast Guard decommissioned the Key West Lighthouse due to technological advancements that made the need for a full-time Keeper obsolete. However, the lighthouse, as a tribute to Key West’s maritime heritage and to the courageous men and women who ensured the light continued to burn despite challenges, was repurposed as a museum.
Today, visitors can ascend the 88-step tower and delve into the personal belongings, photographs, and testimonials of the Keepers and their families, who once led a now outdated yet unforgettable lifestyle. Entrance fees vary from free admission for children under 7, $9 for youths aged 7-18, $13 for seniors, locals, college ID holders, and retired military personnel, to $17 for adults.