Maintaining a National Treasure: The Ponce Inlet Light and Museum
By Hilda Mitrani
The Ponce de Leon Light Station, the tallest light in Florida and one of the tallest in the nation, is responsible for my latest passion – visiting lighthouses! Last summer, I got hooked after my son and I visited this National Historic Landmark in the hamlet of Ponce Inlet.
On site are three keepers' dwellings, a woodshed, oil storage house, pump and collector's museum. The Ayres Davies Lens Exhibit Building houses one of the finest collections of restored Fresnel lenses in the world, including the rotating first order Fresnel lenses from the Cape Canaveral lighthouse and the restored original Ponce Inlet lighthouse.
My favorite part of our visit was watching a dedicated volunteer in the museum taking the Fresnel lens gears apart - and putting them back together after cleaning and oiling them. This volunteer, dressed in period clothes, carefully performs the work required to keep this delicate equipment in functional condition.
While doing his chores, he discussed the technology and the light's importance to vessels navigating Florida's seas. Other volunteers are docents, leading tours of the facilities. I found them to be engaging historians and keepers – of the flame of interest in the lighthouse. They simply love sharing their passion.
Ponce Inlet Light is located just 12 miles south of Daytona Beach, an easy drive from Orlando or NASA's Kennedy Space Center. A climb up the distinctive, russet-colored Ponce Inlet Light means 203 steps up to heaven, or at least an amazing view of the surrounding scenic towns and Atlantic Ocean.
Stop in for a peak into the romance and utility of lighthouses. Just don't say I didn't warn you about getting hooked. Since my visit to Ponce Inlet just 11 months ago, I have visited five lighthouses and climbed four!
Climbing a lighthouse sure beats the Stairmaster at the gym!