Roger Bansemer

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Information and illustrations about Ponce de Leon Inlet lighthouse by artist & author Roger Bansemer.
Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse

The Ponce de Leon Inlet lighthouse is a great place to visit. It's just south of Daytona Beach, Florida and has lots of information and exhibits. The gift shops is one of the most complete I have seen. You can easily spend a half a day at the Ponce de Leon Inlet lighthouse. I spent two days there sketching and taking pictures. The restored 1st order fresnel lens on exhibit is magnificent. The lighthouse keepers houses of which there are two, bring you back in time to give you a real flavor of what it would be like to live there.

The Ponce de Leon Inlet lighthouse is very complete in every aspect from the oil house to the out house. Across the street from the lighthouse is a great little funky restaurant that I recommend.

Ponce de Leon inlet lighthouse print

The Ponce de Leon lighthouse by Roger Bansemer
Ponce de Leon Inlet lighthouse print

Original painting also available

Ponce de Leon Inlet lighthouse print
Information and illustrations about Ponce de Leon Inlet  lighthouse by artist & author Roger Bansemer.
Ponce de Leon Inlet lighthouse print

Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse cat by artist/author Roger Bansemer.
Ponce de Leon Inlet lighthouse print
Original painting also available

Want to see some more paintings from Ponce de Leon Inlet lighthouse

This area didn’t always have the romantic name Ponce de Leon Inlet. Originally it was called Mosquito Inlet, and the village nearby the lighthouse was called Pons Park. Most historians now say that Ponce de León probably never visited here even though he explored these parts of Florida in 1513. As the country grew, it became somewhat more civilized and much more mobile in the early 1920’s but there was a problem. The name Mosquito Inlet was less than successful when it came to attracting tourists from the north who began to discover and flock to Florida, so in 1926 the name Mosquito Inlet was ingeniously changed to Ponce de Leon Inlet. This more palatable name helped real estate developers sell mosquito-infested lots and at the same time honored the famous explorer and pillager.

There have been two lighthouses here. The first was built in 1834, but it never received any oil to light the lanterns (a bureaucratic oversight, I’m sure). Within a year, a storm undermined the lighthouse. It leaned over and finally collapsed but not before the keeper dismantled the lanterns and stored them in his house. Seminole Indians had other ideas about what should be done about the entire situation and decided to burn all the homes and plantations in the area, so they ravaged the keepers houses and what was left of the lighthouse. Chief Coacoochee wore one of the lighthouse’s lantern room reflectors as a headdress during the Battle of Dunlawton three weeks later. So ended the first lighthouse.

The present lighthouse at Ponce de Leon Inlet was built back in 1887 and is Florida’s finest and tallest. Standing at 175 feet tall, over 1,300,000 bricks were used in its construction. The lighthouse rests on a brick foundation forty-five feet in diameter and extends twelve feet into the ground. The walls at its base are eight feet thick. Two hundred thirteen steps lead to the top—a long way to carry a five-gallon bucket of oil to light the lantern. The light was fully automated in 1952, so the houses were no longer needed for the keepers. The structure began to fall into decay, like so many other lighthouses, but the Preservation Society stepped forward in 1972 and by 1981 had carefully restored the entire complex to its original beauty. Each of the seven buildings on the property house many interesting displays dating back to when the light was first built. The keepers’ houses, with their artifacts and period furnishings, give you a sense of what life might have been like as a lighthouse keeper.

The family who lived here in 1926 enjoyed the advancements of the times including the luxury of running water, indoor plumbing, and generator-produced electricity. The water tank was even filled by an electric pump from the sulfur-water well below. However, water used for cooking and drinking was still collected from the roof into a cistern. Before electricity, a windmill was used to bring water to the surface and a hand pump used in the kitchen is still on display in one of the houses.

When indoor plumbing was installed, the original brick outhouse was transformed into a play-actors’ dressing room by the lighthouse keeper’s children. From there they emerged as heroic and grand actors performing their original dramas. Their make-up consisted of burnt matches, which proved handy as black face paint—but not for long. Matches were significant possessions for someone whose job it was to fire up a lighthouse every night. Needless to say, face paint was removed from theater activities shortly, and dad handed out the punishment of "sitting in the chair."

It wasn’t all fun and games at the lighthouse especially for the grown-ups. Ponce de Leon Inlet is quite treacherous. The lighthouse keeper would have to rescue many sailors whose ships ran aground and wrecked. Often the family would share their lodging, give them dry clothes and the keepers wife would serve up a hot meal for the unfortunate mariners.

There are many great stories and displays at the Ponce de Leon Inlet lighthouse and of the thirty lighthouses in Florida, this one will give you the best lighthouse experience of them all. It is one you should not miss seeing. The museum, gift shop, keepers houses and displays are open daily. Best of all, you can climb to the top of the lighthouse.

Three keepers’ houses were built here at the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse. When the St. Augustine Lighthouse was built a decade earlier, it had one house for the keeper, his assistant, and their families. Quarters were just too close, so here it was decided to build smaller, separate houses—one for each assistant and a larger house for the keeper.

Roger Bansemer©

Ponce de Leon Lighthouse
©Roger Bansemer

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