Loggerhead Key Light Station, Boat House, Loggerhead Key, Monroe County, FL
Significance: The Boat House at Dry Tortugas Light Station on Loggerhead Key was constructed in 1923 on the western shore of the island to help support the equipment and personnel needed to maintain this remote lighthouse location. Specifically, the Boat House facilitated the safe storage and maintenance of boats used to travel between Loggerhead Key and Dry Tortugas, as the only viable means of transportation. It is the third boat house on this site; the earlier structures, built in of wood frame construction in 1871 and 1880, were destroyed by hurricanes, and it is for this reason that the current boat house was built of reinforced concrete. It is a vernacular, single-story, rectangular structure with a gable-front roof with large wood panel doors in the gable ends for access by the boats. The gable ends are covered with and wood siding and the side walls are lined by window openings covered by battened wood shutters. Still visible are remnants of a marine railway by which boats could be drawn out of the water and into the boat house by means of hand-operated winch. Remnants include the steel rails in the floor of the boat house, portions of the original seventeen concrete piers on the beach, and parts of wood piers in the water. Along with the lighthouse, kitchen, brick and concrete cisterns, and a new oil house, the boat house is one of the critical support structures for the light station (which also formerly included a keeper's house, ancillary kitchen, wash house and privy).
The Dry Tortugas Lighthouse has been in used since its construction in 1858 as an important aid to navigation for vessels traveling the swift currents of the Florida Straits between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. It was instrumental to the safe passage of vessels through this area and thus contributed significantly to the facilitation of ocean-bound commercial traffic from what is the westernmost island in the Dry Tortugas cluster. The prior light in this vicinity was erected on Garden Key in 1824, but was considered insufficient to the navigation of these often treacherous waters. The Dry Tortugas are the last of the islands that make up the 150-mile-long string of coral reefs and islands of the Florida Keys and were therefore considered important to merchant travel. Due to the lack of an effective lighthouse, most vessels avoided this area altogether. The light station at Loggerhead Key was built in response to surveys of ship captains sent out by the Lighthouse Board as part of an 1851 study of United States Lighthouses and followed decades of complaints. The new lighthouse on Loggerhead key was fitted with a first-order Fresnel lens, the largest made, and was extended in height to 150 feet.
Loggerhead is the largest of the keys in the Dry Tortugas cluster and one of only two that are inhabited. Loggerhead is accessible only by boat or seaplane and thus the boat house has historically been a key component of its support structures. Built during the 1920s, the Boat House is emblematic of the period of modernization for the facilities at Loggerhead Key. The Boat House was also used as the Recreation Building for the Station during its operation by the Coast Guard. It later served to house the pump for the salt water desalination system and for the storage of maintenance equipment and supplies. More recently, it has also served as temporary housing for Cuban refugees that have landed here in pursuit of political asylum. Due to its proximity to Cuba, the Dry Tortugas has become a primary landing point for refugees. Several examples of their graffiti remain on the walls.
Unprocessed Field note material exists for this structure: N2173
Survey number: HABS FL-591-A
Building/structure dates: 1923 Initial Construction