American Shoal Light

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American Shoal Light
American Shoal lighthouse
American Shoal Light is located in Florida
American Shoal Light
Locationsouth-east of the
Saddlebunch Keys
close to Looe Key
United States
Coordinates24°31′31″N 81°31′10″W / 24.525189°N 81.519464°W / 24.525189; -81.519464Coordinates: 24°31′31″N 81°31′10″W / 24.525189°N 81.519464°W / 24.525189; -81.519464
Year first constructed1880
Foundationscrew-pile with platform
Constructionwrought iron skeleton tower
Tower shapeoctagonal pyramidal skeletal tower with platform and 2-storey keeper's quarters, central cylinder, balcony and lantern
Markings / patternred tower and lantern
Tower height110 feet (34 m)
Focal height109 feet (33 m)
Original lensFirst-order drum Fresnel lens (1880)
Current lensVRB-25 aerobeacon
Light sourcesolar power
Rangewhite: 14 nautical miles (26 km; 16 mi)
red: 10 nautical miles (19 km; 12 mi)
CharacteristicFl (3) W 15s. (two red sectors)
Racon"Y" (– • – –)
Admiralty numberJ3002
ARLHS numberUSA-011[2]
USCG number3-1015[3][4]
Managing agentUnited States Coast Guard[5][6][7]
Heritageplace listed on the National Register of Historic Places Edit this on Wikidata
American Shoal Light
NRHP reference #10001189
Added to NRHPJanuary 25, 2011

The American Shoal Light is located east of the Saddlebunch Keys, just offshore from Sugarloaf Key, close to Looe Key, in Florida, United States. It was completed in 1880, and first lit on July 15, 1880. The structure was built to the same plan and dimensions as the Fowey Rocks lighthouse, completed in 1878.


As early as 1851 plans were made for the erection of a series of great offshore lighthouses to mark the dangerous Florida Reefs. These towers, all of skeleton iron construction, to resist hurricanes, were eventually built one at a time over a period of years, that on American Shoal completed in 1880, being the most recently constructed.[6]

American Shoal was built by a Trenton, New Jersey firm and took only 13 months to fabricate, ship, and erect on site. The site of the lighthouse was 15 miles to the eastward, on the outermost reefs, and was covered with 4 feet of water. Construction continued for about 2 years, and the tower when completed cost about $94,000. The lighthouse was first lighted on the night of July 15, 1880.[6]

American Shoal Light was built in wrought iron on a screw-pile foundation with a platform and a skeletal tower. The Light is 109 feet (33 m) above the water. The keeper's octagonal dwelling is on a platform 40 feet (12 m) above the water. The tower framework and dwelling are painted brown, while the enclosed circular stair to the lantern is painted white. The original lens was a first-order drum Fresnel lens, producing a flash every 5 seconds. The light was automated in 1963, and a fourth-order lens with solar-powered light was installed, the current (non-operational) light is a VRB-25 aerobeacon. The light had a nominal range of 14 nautical miles (26 km; 16 mi) in the white sectors, and 10 nautical miles (19 km; 12 mi) in the red sectors.

The lighthouse is listed as number 1015 in the U.S. Coast Guard light list.[8]

In 1990, the U.S. Postal Service issued a 25 cent featuring the American Shoal Light.[9]

The lighthouse was deactivated in 2015.[1]

On May 20, 2016, 24 Cuban refugees boarded the lighthouse.[10] Elements of the United States Coast Guard repatriated four of the refugees, and interned the other twenty at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station.

Head keepers[edit]

  • William Bates (1880 – 1889)
  • Henry P. Weatherford (1899 – 1905)
  • Alfred A. Berghell (1905 – 1907)
  • Arthur C.E. Hamblett (1907 – 1908)
  • John Peterson (1908 – 1910)
  • William H. Curry (1910 – at least 1915)
  • Thomas M. Kelly (1917)
  • William H. Pierce (at least 1919)
  • Richard C. Roberts (at least 1921 – at least 1936)
  • James O. Duncan (1939 – at least 1940)[11]


On February 1, 2019 it was announced that the lighthouse would be given away freely to any government agencies, educational agencies, non-profit corporations, or any community development organizations who wanted to use it for "educational, park, recreational, cultural or historic preservation purposes." Eligible entities had to submit an application by April 2, 2019.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "American Shoal Lighthouse". Lighthouse Friends. Archived from the original on 2016-09-14. Retrieved October 11, 2017.
  2. ^ "Lighthouses Directory". Archived from the original on 2015-10-02. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  3. ^ Light List, Volume III, Atlantic Coast, Little River, South Carolina to Econfina River, Florida (PDF). Light List. United States Coast Guard. 2009. p. 11.
  4. ^ "Historic Light Station Information and Photography: Florida". United States Coast Guard Historian's Office.
  5. ^ American Shoal Archived 2015-10-02 at the Wayback Machine The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 27 June 2016
  6. ^ a b c Florida Historic Light Station Information & Photography United States Coast Guard. Retrieved 27 June 2016. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  7. ^ American Shoal Light Archived 2016-08-05 at the Wayback Machine Lighthouse Explorer. Retrieved 27 June 2016
  8. ^ Light List, Volumes 1-7. United States Coast Guard.
  9. ^ "Stamp Series". United States Postal Service. Archived from the original on 2013-08-10. Retrieved Sep 2, 2013.
  10. ^ Mario J. Penton (2016-07-20). "Un balsero deja la Base de Guantánamo para reunirse con su familia en Cuba" [A rafter leave Guantanamo Bay to meet with his family in Cuba] (in Spanish). Miami, Florida: 14ymedio. Archived from the original on 2016-07-22. Retrieved 2016-07-22. Leyva y otros 23 cubanos hacían parte de un grupo de balseros que el pasado 20 de mayo se refugiaron en el faro American Shoal, a siete millas de las costas estadounidenses.
  11. ^ American Shoal, Fla. Archived September 14, 2016, at the Wayback Machine Lighthouse Friends. Retrieved 27 June 2016
  12. ^ "Notice of Availability: American Shoal Light Station" (PDF). U.S. National Park Service. February 1, 2019. Retrieved April 7, 2019.


External links[edit]