Roger Bansemer

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Information and illustrations about Anclote Key lighthouse by artist & author Roger Bansemer.

Anclote Key Lighthouse
1887

Anclote Key Lighthouse, Anclote Key, Florida

Anclote Key lighthouse print

This painting titled "First Light" was done as a commemorative piece for the relighting of the Anclote Key Lighthouse
and is available to the right collector. 3'x6'

Anclote Key Lighthouse, Anclote Key Florida

Anclote Key lighthouse print


The Anclote Key lighthouse after being dark for 20 years, suffering vandalism, the Anclote Key lighthouse was finally restored and re-lit in Sept. 13, 2003 thanks to efforts of the Gulf Islands Alliance Citizen Support Organization, the Tarpon Springs Historical Society, along with state and federal grants with over a million dollars raised for the eight month long project. Now there are two keeper's houses on the island, one serving as home to a state park ranger who can protect and maintain the lighthouse property. Visitors are welcome to visit the island, the lighthouse, and enjoy the beach.
A crew of six men from the International Chimney Co, the same company that moved the Cape Hatteras lighthouse, Sandblasted lighthouse core and supports and the spiral staircase winding up its core then repaired and replaced many damaged and rusted parts. The lantern room atop the lighthouse was dismantled, taken to ground level and beautifully restored. A new Fresnal lens has also been installed. The relighting ceremony and concert of the Anclote Key lighthouse took place at Sunset Beach Park in Tarpon Springs and featured singer/songwriter Bertie Higgins.

Hours of Operation
Florida state parks are open from 8 a.m. until sundown 365 days a year.
Anclote Key State Preserve is located three miles off Tarpon Springs and is accessible only by private boat.
Admission is Free

Primitive camping is available. Camping is free but before you go you must call 727-469-5942 and check in. Have your boat registration number, number of campers, arrival and departure dates and a contact phone number in the event of an emergency.

Anclote Key Preserve State Park, # 1 Causeway Blvd. Dunedin, Florida 34698 Phone: 727-469-5942 / Park Manager: Scott Robinson

The Anclote Village Marina is offering pontoon boat rentals to the island. It's a great way to spend the day on the beautiful beaches there and see the lighthouse. Visit http://www.anclotevillagemarina.com/ for more information about the rentals.

Anclote Key Lighthouse When I did these paintings of the Anclote Key lighthouse (with the exception of the one at the top of the page) the lantern room of the Anclote Key lighthouse was exposed to the weather with all the glass totally destroyed by vandalism. All that remained of the light itself is the platform where the light once was mounted. Years ago I can remember visiting the lighthouse when even the Fresnel lens was still in place. That was back in the mid 70's. Even then vandalism had taken its toll with pieces of the lens missing. Now its all gone. The person in the painting in my dentist Harvey who was kind enough to take us out to the lighthouse in his boat.
Anclote Key lighthouse print 

Anclote Key lighthouse print

Encroaching water from erosion has always been a problem with lighthouses. Here at Anclote Key, trees have been uprooted by winds and storms and will eventually make the beach smaller and closer to the light.

Turnbuckles at base of Anclote Key Lighthouse

All cast iron, the basic structure of the Anclote Key lighthouse although in disrepair can and was saved. Cast iron doesn't deteriorate like steel and even the threads of the rods are still in salvageable condition.

Anclote Key lighthouse
Now the Anclote Key lighthouse has been restored, this once rusted structure has been sandblasted, repaired, and painted black.
Iron door to Anclote Key lighthouseAlthough the iron doors were welded shut and all efforts were taken to seal the light off to the public, vandalism prevailed and the door was cut open with a cutting torch making it open to anyone who has the nerve to climb to the top past broken and cracked steps. It has all been restored to its original condition now.

Cast iron was used as a building material for lighthouses instead of steel for several reasons. Steel, an alloy made from iron and carbon, wasn’t produced in large quantities until the 1850s and was more expensive than cast iron. Steel is much stronger than cast iron and is not brittle, but it lacks one major advantage of cast iron: Iron weathers better than steel. Cast iron, or iron, is a single element and doesn’t allow for water molecules to replace any of other molecules, as happens with an alloy. For that reason, water can’t permeate it molecule by molecule, like it does with steel; basically, rust stops at the surface. Had lighthouses been made of steel, they would have long since rusted away.

This type of skeletal lighthouse was developed in the early 1860s for several reasons. Sandy soil along Florida’s coasts made if difficult to build adequate foundations to support the heavy weight of brick lighthouses. A cast-iron skeletal structure was much lighter, so its foundation didn’t need to be as massive. Additionally, shifting sands often threatened lighthouses as beaches eroded and shorelines changed. Skeletal lighthouses could be disassembled and moved since they were bolted together in small sections. Skeletal structures also cost less to build than brick ones.

Originally, there were two keepers’ houses and several other outbuildings by the lighthouse. Four hundred feet of cedar picket fencing painted white surrounded them. Two above-ground cisterns made of wood supplied the keepers and their families with fresh water. A 209-foot-long pier extended from the lighthouse; later, another 200 feet of pier and a boathouse were added. All of that is gone now, but people still enjoy the island for its lovely beaches, shells, and peaceful atmosphere.

Lighthouse keepers were generally men and women of few words, especially when it came to filling out their daily logs. It is one reason that details are sketchy about how they lived. On October 6, 1889, the keeper at the Anclote Key Lighthouse, referring to his child, wrote, "Baby was taken very sick at 5 p.m." The next day he wrote, "Baby boy died this morning at 2:30 o’clock. Keeper and wife went over to bury him today." On August 30, 1890, his log entry read, "Baby born. Keeper’s wife. Bad weather." If nothing else, it shows how rugged these people must have been out of sheer necessity.

I grew up and still live in Clearwater, Florida, just a few miles south of Tarpon Springs and the Anclote Key Lighthouse. Thirty years ago, my parents would sometimes pack a lunch and take our small boat out to the 180-acre island. There we would spend the day on the white sand beaches, swimming and collecting shells. Years later, I owned a Hobie Cat and would sail to the island. The lighthouse was automated in 1952 and was therefore unmanned and officially closed to the public, but I remember it always being open because of vandalism. People constantly found a way to tear down the fence and break open the heavy steel door. I can remember going up to the top of the light and looking at the small, third-order, pineapple-shaped Fresnel lens, which even then was badly destroyed. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1985, and today there is nothing left of the lens. Even the floor of the lantern room has been broken and cracked from someone’s beating it with a sledgehammer. Needless to say, all the windows have been knocked out. People have even stolen bricks from the old oil house and the many brick walkways for their own use. Efforts are being made to restore the old lighthouse, but when I did these paintings nothing had been done. Everything near the lighthouse has become overgrown, been spray painted, or abused in some way.

The nearby town of Tarpon Springs is a small, active community, its population mainly of Greek heritage, and is best known for its sponge industry.

Tourism seems to be the predominant industry with 750,000 tourists visiting the old sponge docks each year. The quaint shops are still full of those early childhood souvenirs of shell lamps and bins with dried seahorses and sand dollars I use to love as a boy. The restaurants and bakeries all serve up delicious traditional Greek pastries and although tourism overshadows industry, Tarpon Springs remains the largest natural sponge market in the world, with annual revenues over five million dollars. Today all but a few of the colorful sponge boats are gone, along with their traditional hard hat divers. They have all been replaced by more ordinary-looking boats with scuba divers. Many shrimp boats now make Tarpon Springs their home port as well. Instead of using the Anclote Key Lighthouse to guide their way to the Anclote River and Tarpon Springs, boats now make use of a tall smokestack with a flashing strobe light from the power plant at the mouth of the river as a day marker and lighthouse for all practical purposes.

To get more technical information that you will ever need on the Anclote Key Lighthouse click here.

Anclote Key Lighthouse Map, Tarpon Springs, FL
İRoger Bansemer