Question: any guesses what/where this structure is? Answer follows.
Dry Tortugas Light on Loggerhead Key–three miles from Fort Jefferson– first illuminated navigators in 1858, this month 143 years ago.
The first light in the Dry Tortugas-a place to stock up on turtle meat-was first lit in 1826, but according to the tour guide, that brick light tower was razed in 1877 because its location too often directed approaching vessels over reefs to their doom.
Fort Jefferson-the unfinished coastal fortress also known as the second largest masonry structure on Earth (after the Great Wall of China)–would never have been started if the US government had heeded the 1825 recommendation of US Navy Commodore David Porter (adoptive father of the future Admiral David G. Farragut!!) because of its lack of fresh water and stable bedrock for foundations. Four years later, the US government accepted the recommendation of the next Commodore–John Rodgers–and began construction of the structure that failed in the ways Porter predicted and was obsolete before it approached completion.
By the way, Porter had an intriguing career, including being prisoner of both the Barbary pirates (1803-5) and the British Navy (1814) but also Captain of US naval vessels, court-martialee after his unauthorized invasion of Fajardo, commander-in-chief of the Mexican Navy (1826-29), and US ambassador to the Barbary States and Turkey. Imagine someone trying to do those things in that order today.
In the foto below, notice the different colored bricks.
The bricks of different colors reflect the origin of the brick: again . . . according to the tour guide, bricks produced in the South before the Civil War have resisted time well. After 1861, bricks came here from Maine (!) and have fared less well in this climate.
If you imagine you see window air conditioners where guns should be, you are NOT imagining that. National Park Service employees live inside the Fort and have added contemporary creature comforts.
Key West Light–through various remodelings– has stood here since 1847.
Less than a block away is the house where Hemingway lived in the 1930s.
You might call it a “cat house” today, where the dozens of poly-toed cats have names like Picasso and Dickinson and Truman . . .
Time for a few Hemingway quotes? “There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it’s like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.” And “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”
But check out this title! I’d imagined he’d say something like “There is no way to make good pictures . . . the best way to make them is . . . to make them.”
At least Hemingway had taste in naming his boat . . . which I hope to see some day, not easy to do because Pilar is at Finca Vigia in Cuba. More fotos here. Pilar was once in Brooklyn! Brooklyn’s Wheeler Shipyard (I believe it was in or near the Navy Yard) made out a bill of sale to the writer on April 18, 1934 for a “38-foot twin cabin Playmate cruiser” with “one [75 hp] Chrysler Crown reduction gear engine” and “4-cylinder Lycoming straight drive engine” for trolling for a grand total of $7455. For a thread on a discussion board related to Pilar, click here. Pilar was Hemingway’s q-boat.
My question is this: How did Pilar get from Brooklyn to Key West? Did someone make a delivery by water? Ship? Train? And does anyone know if Valhalla, Pilar’s sistership, has been restored after its accidental sinking in 2007?
So that first building . . . here’s the rest of it as seen from Jacksonville Beach. It’s the 1946-built Art Deco life saving station, not a lighthouse at all. A beauty though.
All fotos by Will Van Dorp.