Since 1859, the Pensacola Lighthouse has been guiding ships safely through Pensacola Pass. It has survived multiple hurricanes, endured shots from a cannon during the Civil War and has even sustained an earthquake, making it almost legendary. Over the years, the lighthouse has held many keepers who made their living walking up and down the 177 steps, day in and day out, lugging heavy oil cans all the way.
Would you believe that, in the 1800s, one of these keepers was a woman? Before the current lighthouse was built, Pensacola Light Station was located a short distance away and was built in 1824. Its first keeper was Jeremiah Ingraham, who was assisted by his wife Michaela. When Jeremiah died in 1840, Michaela took over the full lighthouse duties, along with raising their children, until her death 15 years later. During a time when most women didn't hold positions of power, thousands of men depended on her to make it home safely. What a woman. In fact, she would be the only woman to ever run Pensacola Light Station.
A few years later the new lighthouse was built, and Michaela's son-in-law became its first keeper.
In 1861, the Civil War began and the lighthouse was thrown right in the middle. When Florida seceded to the Union, Confederate soldiers took the lighthouse, along with Forts Barrancas and McRee, while Union soldiers held Fort Pickens on Pensacola Beach. After more than a year of staring across the bay and intermittently exchanging fire with one another, the Confederate soldiers evacuated, and the lighthouse fell under Union control. Unfortunately, the lighthouse didn't make it out of the fray unscathed. Several rounds fired from Fort Pickens had done quite a number on the building. Thankfully, none of the rounds penetrated the outer wall, so the lighthouse was still sound and in working order.
If a war weren't enough to take the lighthouse down, a little natural disaster certainly couldn't do it either. A few years after the end of the Civil War, the lighthouse was struck by lightning, twice, melting some of the metal fixtures inside. Then it had to ride out an earthquake, of all things.
Naturally, the lighthouse has gone through multiple renovations in its more than 150-year history. To this day, you can still climb the 177 steps to the top for breathtaking views of Pensacola Pass and to catch those daring U.S. Navy Blue Angels fly by, when they are practicing. (Insider tip: It's the perfect place to watch the Blues! Call early to reserve your spot, because it fills up quickly!)
If you want to hear about the spooky side of the lighthouse, you don’t want to miss their Ghost Hunt Tours. Ghost Hunters International even did an episode on the lighthouse! Their team was sure they weren't alone, if you know what I mean.
The lighthouse even makes a spectacular wedding spot. (Word to the wise, if you're going to climb, be sure to take closed toe shoes. If you don't have them you must climb barefoot. As someone who has done that... believe me, you don't want to.)
By Brooke Fleming