The Ponce Inlet Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in Florida and was completed in 1887 and currently remains in use as a private aid to navigation. The lighthouse and grounds are well preserved and touring the grounds and lighthouse will give you some idea what life here during the late 1800’s might have been like. At that time, it was a remote from all the comforts of civilization and the lighthouse crew and families had to fend for themselves.
The history of the light and many of the keepers and their families is documented here. Spending some time reading about their lives and the events that took place around them is truly a trip back in time.
One of the interesting stories about the lighthouse is its connection to Stephen Crane. He is perhaps best known as the author of the “The Red Badge of Courage”. This novel was the first brutal look at the fighting in the Civil War and became a best seller, which in turn made him a household name. He wrote this book without any personal experience in battle. His publisher offered him the chance to gain some firsthand experience and write about the current struggle going on in Cuba. As a result, Crane found himself aboard the ill fated S.S. Commodore sailing for Cuba. Off Daytona Beach, the vessel sank in heavy weather, Crane, the Ship’s captain and a few others landed ashore after sighting the light from what is now the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse. Crane wrote a short story based on his experience that night called “The Open Boat”.
We climbed the 203 steps to the viewing platform for a terrific view of the surrounding area. On the way up there is a sobering plaque, indicating that you had reached the spot where first assistant keeper Davis died of a heart attack in 1919 at the age of 59. After checking the old pulse rate, we continued on up. It was well worth the effort.