Sombrero Key Light

Oct. 15, 2019

Sombrero Key Light, offshore of Vaca Key, Marathon, Florida

Skeleton tower built in 1858.


Location: Near Marathon Key; 24° 37' 6" N x 81° 06' 6" W
Station Established: 1858
Year Current Tower(s) First Lit: 1858
Operational? YES
Automated? YES, 1960
Deactivated: n/a
Height: 166 ft.; 142' above water
Foundation Materials: IRON PILE W/DISCS
Construction Materials: CAST IRON
Markings/Pattern: BROWN
Relationship to Other Structure: INTEGRAL
Original Lens: FIRST ORDER, FRESNEL 1858

Historical Information:

  • Sombrero Key Light is in eight feet of water on an outer line of reefs.  It had a group flashing white 45,000 candlepower and 3 red 13,000 candlepower sector lights.  It stands 142 feet above water and is visible for 18 miles (as of 1968).
  • The 12-inch wrought-iron foundation-piles rest centrally on cast-iron disks 8 feet in diameter, and go 10 feet into the rock.  They stand at the angles and center of an octagon 56 feet across and are braced by horizontal radial and periphery ties of 5-inch round iron.  The frame rises from this foundation pyramidal in shape, in six sections, with a diameter of 56 feet at the bottom, tapering to 15 feet at the top.  All the shafts, except those of the lower series, are of hollow cast-iron.
  • The keeper's dwelling, in the second section, is 30 feet square, and of boiler-iron lined with wood.  A circular stairway ascended to the lantern, in a cylinder of boiler iron lined with wood.
  • The light was built under the direction of Lieutenant George G. Meade, AUS, at a cost of $153,159.41.  
  • It was first lit on 17 March 1858.