The lighthouse at St. Vincent Island
in the Florida Panhandle
is the largest and most impressive such structure in the southeastern United States. It is no longer officially in use and is currently a popular tourist destination.
During the Gulf Coast Noder Gathering
, many of us visited this beautiful building on the instigation of General Lee
. After a ferry ride and a brief walk, we found it. The lighthouse appears to be plain white during the daylight hours, but during the sunset, the light striking the building makes the coral
glow a bright pink, a sight we were lucky enough to see on our way back to the ferry.
The St. Vincent Lighthouse was constructed in 1876
by an Italian immigrant stonemason named Antonio Montoya
. He built the entire lighthouse with his bare hands, carving it out of coral blocks he hauled and lifted with a complicated system of pulleys and scaffolding, which would have been an impressive feat even with our modern technology. It is thought that Montoya built the structure to honor the memory of his childhood sweetheart, who died back in Italy
at age 16 of influenza
. Montoya never married and is buried in an unmarked grave on the island.
Today, the lighthouse keeper is a retired man named Seagram Brooks
. He was originally the official keeper until it was retired from active service, at which time the National Park Service
allowed him to continue living there rent free. Mr. Brooks was kind enough to give us a tour of the lighthouse when we stopped by, and is still spry enough to climb the stairs faster than any of us lazy noders. He even served us cookies and hot chocolate
with those little marshmallows
. We snuck out when Brooks began telling us stories about his service in the merchant marines
during the Korean War