One Tank Trip: Franklin Co. & Cape St. George Lighthouse

Cape Saint George Lighthouse pic 1
Posted at 6:15 PM, May 20, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-21 12:23:48-04

FRANKLIN CO., Fla. (WTXL) - Located in Franklin County along the Forgotten Coast, Saint George Island a quaint, quiet place with no chain restaurants or stop lights. But what it does have makes it even more unique.

The Cape Saint George Lighthouse is located on the center of the island, and is the first thing you see when you come off the bridge. It's a reconstruction of the 1852 lighthouse that fell almost a decade ago.

"It took 13 months to build the lighthouse," says Lighthouse Keeper Jim Dunkin. "It cost $750,000 and all the bricks on the interior of the lighthouse came from the old 1852 lighthouse, 22,440 of them. The bricks in the floor, bricks in front stairs, the white stones in the front door are granite. They're from the 1852 lighthouse, and we have 5 windows. Each window has at least one granite piece in it from the 1852 lighthouse."

Lighthouse Keeper Jim Dunkin says the Cape Saint George Lighthouse is a popular draw to the island for tourists, estimating about 115,000 people have climbed the new lighthouse in the 6 1/2 years it's been open.

One feature that makes this lighthouse unique? The wooden stairs.

"We have 30 lighthouses in Florida, only two have wooden stairs," says Dunkin. "This lighthouse has wooden stairs, and the other lighthouse has wooden stairs, but it's not open to the public. So it's the only lighthouse in Florida that you can come into and enjoy the wooden stairs."

On each of the 92 stairs in the lighthouse, there's a plaque that contains the name of a person who has donated $250 to help restore it.

"It was interesting," said Max Kallschmidt, "It kind of knocked me out of breath the 92 steps, but it was fun because it was really interesting seeing all the different pieces of the old lighthouses like he said, inside, and all the different name plates of people that contributed to it.

Max Kallschmidt and his family drove over from Perry, Florida for a day trip to visit the beach and the lighthouse.

"It was small but it was nice," said lighthouse visitor Jerry Gorman. "Once we got to the top I was surprised that the lighthouse light itself was so small, considering the older ones were very large and this one is more modern. It's got an LED to that I thought was pretty interesting."

That LED lens is the same one the U.S. Coast Guard installs in its lighthouses. It has five tiers of LED lights and goes out 13 miles, just like the old fresnel lens. The cost? $10,000.

Dunkin adds, "The new lens is much smaller. The fresnel lens was about 6 feet tall and about 3 1/2 feet wide, probably weighed close to 1,000 to 1,500 pounds, so it's very different than the lens upstairs, which is about like that!"

While this is the fourth lighthouse built on the island, Dunkin believes it is strong enough to withstand the test of time for both visitors and residents to enjoy.

"It's neat to see the young kids come in here, especially the local people, and they're growing up with the lighthouse," said Dunkin. "What a neat thing to be able to do, be at the beach and go to the lighthouse at the same time. So there is a lot of affection for the lighthouse."

And that love for the lighthouse is why many feel it's worth taking a one tank trip to Franklin County.