Holiday Tour Brings You to 155-year-old Cape Canaveral Lighthouse
The Cape Canaveral Lighthouse has stood on the Cape for 155 years. It is one of Brevard County’s most unique sites, but one many locals have never visited. Because it is located on an active military installation, it is only open to the public through pre-scheduled tours. The lighthouse is owned and maintained by the United States Space Force and the light is maintained by the United States Coast Guard.
The original lighthouse was first lit in 1849, but the tower was too short to warn sailors of the dangerous shoals off the coast. The Civil War delayed the construction of the new, taller, iron tower. It was completed and the lamp was lit in 1868.
Over the course of its history, Cape Canaveral Lighthouse had only nine head keepers. The longest serving was Mills Olcott Burnham, who was head keeper from 1853 to 1886. Many of the later keepers were part of the Burnham family. The last keeper left in 1941. Today, Cape Canaveral Lighthouse is still a working lighthouse, but it is fully automated.
This holiday season, the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Foundation is welcoming guests into the lighthouse as part of the 4th Annual Museums of Brevard Holiday Tour of Historic Homes, happening the first three weekends of December. Visitors can purchase tickets to tour eight historic homes, including the lighthouse, for just $70. Part of the proceeds benefit the foundation and its preservation projects.
The mission of the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Foundation is to support Space Force in interpreting the history of the lighthouse. They are currently raising funds to rebuild the footprint of the original light station.
“There used to be three keepers’ cottages and a couple of other storage buildings around the lighthouse,” said Ron Ecker, president of the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Foundation. “We’ve rebuilt the head keeper’s home, which is a museum right now, and we want to build the other two cottages. One will be an education and activity center. The other will be a replica depicting the lives of the keepers and their families over the years.”
Ecker says Brevard residents should visit the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse to honor its history.
“It’s the oldest structure on the cape,” Ecker said. “Without the lighthouse, there is speculation we wouldn’t have the Kennedy Space Center and we wouldn’t be launching rockets here. The Coast Guard owned about 870 acres of land from the lighthouse to the ocean because early in the 20th century, that land was set aside by the Lighthouse Board so no one could build in front of the lighthouse. The Coast Guard leased the land to the Army, and in the 1950s they launched the first missile about a mile from the lighthouse. The rest is history.”
If You Go