History comes alive with keeper’s cottage museum at Cape Canaveral Lighthouse


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The recently built keeper’s cottage at the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse is being converted into a museum.

Darrell Woehler

The Cape Canaveral Lighthouse has been standing guard for 151 years and had keeper’s cottages where lighthouse workers lived.

Through the years, the cottages were lost to history due to advances in electricity for the lighthouse and weather deterioration. The keepers also were no longer needed on a 24-hour basis.

A new cottage resembling one of the originals now stands at the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse.

Military, business and political leaders gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 18 to open the first newly constructed keeper’s cottage. It is a replica of one of the original cottages.

The two-story structure next to the lighthouse was built based on the building plans of the original cottage that once stood there.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Doug Schiess, commander of the 45th Space Wing and director of the Eastern Range, Patrick Air Force Base, was the principal speaker for the event.

He took attendants on a figurative trip back to the early days of the lighthouse.

“We must honor the dedicated workers who came before us, those who filled the burners with oil, trimmed the wicks and monitored the weather, all to protect ships and passengers,” Schiess said.

On the morning of the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the light in the lighthouse projected out into the Atlantic Ocean as a thunderstorm with its cumulus clouds passing by at dawn.

Florida Rep. Tyler Sirois, District 51; Schiess; and Ginny Davis, vice president of the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Foundation, cut the ribbon.

“This ribbon cutting was the culmination of a 10-year effort on the part of the officers, directors and volunteers who had the vision with the motto of ‘What once was, can be again,’ is now here in this first step, said Foundation president and retired Coast Guard Rear Admiral Jim Underwood.”

Underwood said he had many people to thank.

“I want to also thank the community leaders who made this day possible,” he said. “This entire project has been and continues to be exhilarating.”

This is the first of three cottages expected to be built. Funding still is being sought for the other two buildings.

Work will now begin to transform the keeper’s cottage into a museum that will display artifacts from the lighthouse, items from the early keepers and families that lived near the lighthouse in the 1880s and 1890s.

As originally constructed in 1868, it was near the shore of the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Canaveral. But due to erosion at that site, it was moved to its present location, about 1 mile inland on U.S. Air Force property.

The education cottage, which is being planned next, will introduce students and visitors to a broad range of topics such as Fresnel lens, Native Americans, the citrus industry, maritime history and the space program. The third cottage will complete the historical integrity of the complex that surrounded the lighthouse. It will showcase how the keepers and their families lived during their assignment at the lighthouse.

For information on tours to the lighthouse, go to canaverallight.org.

For additional information on the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Foundation, contact Jim Underwood at Radmjim@Aol.com.