Digest>Archives> March 2006

Extreme Makeover at Cape Canaveral

Bringing Back the Glory

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As part of a $750,000 restoration project, the ...

A well-deserved facelift to bring back the glory of the only operational lighthouse in the U.S. Air Force

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The lantern room of Florida’s famous Cape ...

A small gathering of workers, volunteers and news media representatives saw something at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station this past January that hasn’t been seen in over 100 years: a topless Cape Canaveral Lighthouse.

Construction workers, using a gigantic crane, as part of an ongoing refurbishment project removed the roof and lantern room from the top of the 151-foot, 138-year-old structure. The combined weight of the roof and lamp room is approximately 18,000 pounds.

Although there is some debate as to the exact date, the last time the lamp room was detached from the base of the lighthouse was sometime between 1892 and 1894. “Whichever it was, what we’re seeing today is probably only the second time it’s ever happened. There is so much history here. Seeing this is phenomenal,” said Sonny Witt, deputy commander of Det. 1, 45th Support Group at the Cape.

The lamp room is the original structure, but the roof is actually a replacement that was perched on top of the lighthouse during modifications in 1994. The original copper roof was taken to the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Museum at the Cape, where it covered a gazebo for several years. That original roof was recently taken off the gazebo and will be put back on top of the lighthouse. The current roof removed from the lighthouse will then be placed on top of the gazebo.

“The primary reason this is being done at this time is due to the accelerated corrosion due to Hurricanes Jeanne and Frances. Without repair at this time, structural problems could worsen very quickly,” said Robert Elliott, 45th Civil Engineer Squadron project engineer. “When the $750,000 project is done, we will have touched every square inch of the surface area of

the lighthouse at least six times to remove paint and corrosion. We’re making the lighthouse safer for people to visit.”

That’s great news to Dr. David Paterno, president of the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Foundation. This group signed a memorandum of agreement with the 45th Space Wing on Dec. 1, 2005 that allows it to work with the Air Force to help maintain the lighthouse and possibly improve public access.

“The lighthouse has been rusting away and is in dire need of all the help it can get. This is a major step toward getting the lighthouse complex back to what it was,” said Dr. Paterno. “This lighthouse sits on land that is the oldest mapped location in the U.S. The famous scientist Dr. Werner Von Braun used to watch rocket launches from the top of this lighthouse. We believe this is the most unique lighthouse in America and we want to make it safe and secure, and preserve it for our children and their children.”

The Cape Canaveral Lighthouse is the only operational lighthouse in the U.S. Air Force and is still used by mariners as a navigation aide. While the Air Force owns the lighthouse, the U.S. Coast Guard operates it. “The Coast Guard powered down the light on January 10. The plan is for them to refurbish the light and it will be put back on top of

the lighthouse again — inside the refurbished lamp room

and under the original copper roof,” said Mr. Elliott. “The lighthouse will look as good as new.”

The entire refurbishment project is set for completion around mid-July 2006.

Story submitted by Kenneth Warren, courtesy of the U. S. Air Force, 45th Space Wing Public Affairs Office.

This story appeared in the March 2006 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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