Roger Bansemer

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Information and illustrations about  Gasparilla lighthouse by artist & author Roger Bansemer.
Gasparilla Rear Range Light

on Gasparilla Island, Boca Grande, Florida
1927

Gasparilla lighthouse at Boca Grand
Gasparilla Island Lighthouse, Boca Grande © Roger Bansemer

Gasparilla Island lighthouse print, Boca Grande
Original painting also available

Gasparilla Island Lighthouse

A rear range lighthouse is used in the same way that you line up the sights on a gun. When one lighthouse is directly behind the other, then a captain knows he is in the middle of the channel. The Gasparilla light serves this purpose. Built in 1927, it stands 105 feet tall and had to be moved once because the beach had eroded dangerously close to it. Fortunately, these cast-iron skeletal lighthouses were bolted together, making disassembly possible. The lighthouse has a narrow lantern room just under the light, making it look somewhat out of proportion, so it doesn’t rank up there with the most attractive lighthouses in Florida. The Boca Grande Lighthouse a mile down the road, however, makes up for its companion’s lack of style.

Boca Grande is the town, Gasparilla is the island, but most people know this place simply as Boca Grande. It was a thriving port when phosphate was discovered and mined in Bartow, directly east of Tampa. The Peace River ran from the area of the mining down to Port Charlotte, near Boca Grande. River barges were used to deliver goods to the port for shipping until 1909. At that time, a railroad was completed from Bartow to Boca Grande, making it possible for phosphate to be shipped directly to Boca Grande by rail.

The island not only grew economically because of the phosphate industry; it also became a popular social spot during the winter for residents from the North. The railroad offered special excursions from New York to accommodate the many wealthy tourists. To this day, tarpon fishing continues to bring in many sport fishermen, and the area is known worldwide for its Annual Tarpon Tournament. The tarpon has become the symbol of the area—maybe even more so than the lighthouses—and images of tarpon can be found just about everywhere in town.

The Gasparilla Island lighthouse is not open to the public but the grounds are, and you can walk right up to it. There is a wonderful beach and parking only a few hundred feet away. Nearby downtown Boca Grande has many quaint shops and restaurants to enjoy.

©Roger Bansemer

Gasparilla Lighthouse, Boca Grande
©Roger Bansemer