Continuing a long tradition of partnership between the USCG Ponce Inlet Station and the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse, Boatswains Mate Petty Officer First Class Jessica Guidroz reenlisted near the front steps of the Ponce DeLeon Inlet Lighthouse and Museum, Ponce Inlet, Florida, at a 10:30 a.m. ceremony on August 24, 2017. The five-year re-enlistment and swearing-in event was conducted by CWO4/BOSN Mike Lemay of Jacksonville Station, and attended by members of Guidroz’s family, Ponce Inlet Lighthouse Museum officials, and visitors to the museum that day. Guidroz was first named the station’s officer-in-charge in July 2016. Previous service saw her onboard the USCG Cutter Eagle which conducts summer-long Coast Guard Academy cadet-at-sea training.
The Ponce Inlet Coast Guard Station provides search and rescue, law enforcement, pollution control and maintenance of aids to navigation for an area which encompasses the Matanzas Inlet south to Haulover Canal. The Ponce Inlet Coast Guard Station was established in 1938 on the south side of the Ponce DeLeon Inlet.
In 1939 the Lighthouse Service was merged with the U.S. Coast Guard. The Lighthouse Service personnel were given the choice of retirement or joining the Coast Guard with similar rank. Staff at the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse joined the Coast Guard, and former principal keeper Edward L. Meyer became officer in charge of the station. During World War II the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse principal keeper’s residence became a barracks for Coast Guardsmen, and the lighthouse station, with its 175-foot tower became a lookout post, training facility, and radio navigation beacon base. After the war, the station continued to be maintained by the Coast Guard until the Ponce De Leon Inlet Preservation Association began managing the property in 1972. In the intervening years, a long and fruitful partnership developed between the Lighthouse Museum and the Coast Guard facility, with co-celebrations of service continuing today.
Ponce Inlet Lighthouse and Museum is planning another celebration on November 10, 2017, to commemorate the station’s 130th birthday. On November 1, 1887, Principal Keeper William R. Rowlinski climbed the 213 steps of the tall, red-brick giant to its lantern room. Rowlinski proceeded to light the five-concentric-wick kerosene lamp. The brilliant, fixed white light blazed forth from the Barbier & Fenestre first-order lens. About two months earlier, a Notice to Mariners was issued from the Lighthouse Board formally announcing the new light’s presence on the coast atop the 175-foot tower. It had taken three years to complete the station on the previously dark 100-mile stretch of coast of East Florida. The Notice also carried the Longitude and Latitude positions, bearings and distances of two other “prominent objects,” the “Cape Canaveral Light-House” at 41 nautical miles to the South, and the “St. Augustine Light-House,” some 52 nautical miles to the North.
In 1970, after more than 80 years of service, the U.S. Coast Guard decommissioned the light station and formulated plans to demolish the structures and use the rubble as an artificial reef. A group of Ponce Inlet residents, alarmed by the potential loss of so much local and national history, formed the Ponce DeLeon Lighthouse Preservation Association, saved the tower and keepers’ residences from the wrecking ball, and has managed and operated the station as an attraction and museum ever since. Restoration continues to this day, and as a result in 1998 the once dilapidated station was recognized as a National Historic Landmark, one of only twelve historic U.S. lighthouses to be so honored. Welcoming more than 175,000 visitors each year, the station is acknowledged as one of the best preserved and most representative light stations in the nation.
Excerpted from submissions by John F. Mann, Lead Docent, Ponce Inlet Lighthouse and Museum, August 10 and 24, 2017
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Candace was the US Lighthouse Society historian from 2016 until she passed away in August 2018. For 30 years, her work involved lighthouse history. She worked with the National Park Service and the Council of American Maritime Museums. She was a noted author and was considered the most knowledgable person on lighthouse information at the National Archives. Books by Candace Clifford include: Women who Kept the Lights: a History of Thirty-eight Female Lighthouse Keepers , Mind the Light Katie, and Maine Lighthouses, Documentation of their Past.