Keeper’s Log Cover Story: Sanibel Class Lights

An article that highlighted the South Fox “new light” was the cover story for the Winter 2024 edition of the United States Lighthouse Society’s publication “The Keeper’s Log.” The story describes these onshore skeletal lights that were used on the East, West and Gulf Coasts as well as the Great Lakes.

Skeletals were a relatively low-cost way to build taller towers versus traditional masonry. They were lighter in weight, another advantage over traditional masonry, especially in coastal zones where foundations could be problematic. They could also be moved, a factor when a number of lights had succumbed to changes in shorelines else become obsolete by changes in shipping needs.  The “Sanibel class” had a square pyramidal design.

There are a lot of interesting stories about these 17 “sister” lights.

The schooner carrying the ironwork for the initial two lights in 1884 went aground on a shoal a few miles short of arrival in SW Florida. Clearly the light was needed! (Fortunately, two lighthouse tenders rushed to the scene and salvaged the majority of the parts.)

The Waackaack, NJ light (built by a Detroit firm) detoured to the 1893 Columbian Exposition (shown behind the Viking Ship which was also a popular attraction at the fair) before making its way to its ultimate home.

Only one of the lights succumbed to nature: Chandeleur Island, built on a barrier island off New Orleans, had been undermined by prior storms and finally succumbed during Hurricane Katrina.

Sanibel Island’s Light lost a leg during 2022’s Hurricane Ian. The storm washed away surrounding buildings. The leg has since been repaired.

These were sturdy lights.

And, of course, there’s the South Fox Island skeletal. Installed in 1905 on Sapelo Island, GA, it was relocated in 1933/34. The editor kindly featured a number of our images.

Many thanks to members Barb Falkenhagen, David Lightner, and Steve Webb for photos and Karen Wells for writing & researching the article.