After the first Key West lighthouse was destroyed in an 1846 hurricane, a new lighthouse was completed in 1848. It stood 50-feet tall with 13 lamps in 21-inch reflectors. The growth of trees and taller buildings in Key West began to obscure the light, so in 1894 the tower was raised 20 feet, placing the light about 100 feet above sea level.
The Coast Guard decommissioned the Key West Lighthouse in 1969. It was turned over to Monroe County, which in turn leases it to the Key West Arts & Historical Society that operates it as a museum.
On display is the first order Fresnel lens from the Sombrero Key Lighthouse. In 2016, a $1-million renovation was completed that repaired the slate roof, adding an ADA access to the Keeper’s Quarters, and new paint for the entire site.
In 2018, the entrance will be renovated; HVAC systems will be updated; and the foundation of the Keepers’ Quarters will be restored. Future plans include restoration of the Oil House into exhibition space, which will display the manner in which the lighthouse was fueled.