The first lighthouse at Cape San Blas, near the town of Port St. Joe, was erected in 1849. It was an 85-foot conical brick tower designed to warn ships of the dangerous shoal at the Cape. This structure was destroyed by a storm in 1851, and replaced in 1856 with a similar brick tower that was destroyed within a few months. The third lighthouse was built in 1857 and was damaged during the War Between the States, but survived until toppled by beach erosion in 1882.
In 1883 it was replaced by a 98-foot "skeletal" lighthouse comprised of eight cast iron legs that support the "watch room" and lantern at the top of the tower. Although the tower initially stood 1500 feet from the shore, a powerful storm in 1894 left it damaged and standing in water. In 1918 it was moved one quarter mile to where it stands today, and the light was lit on January 22, 1919.
The most immediate threat to the Cape San Blas Lighthouse was the deterioration and cracking of the structural cast iron foundation disks and anchor brackets bolted to the concrete footing/piers. The Architect and the Consulting Structural Engineer, Richard Givens P.E., noted significant cracking and corrosion of several of the structural cast iron foundation discs and anchor brackets, which seriously compromised the structural integrity and ability to resist wind loading.
The bracing and tie down rod stanchions, brackets and turn buckles were deteriorating at an accelerated rate from corrosion in the salt environment, and the skeletal structure, stair cylinder, and watch room had evidenced significantly more “rust bloom” over the past few years; much of the upper and lower gallery railings had deteriorated beyond repair and required replacement. The metal roof panels and battens on the Lighthouse lantern had become loose and did not appear secure, compromising the weatherproof envelope of the lantern.
The Cape San Blas site is relatively remote and no qualified contractors and metal fabricators were in this region. The environmental assessment determined the site to be contaminated with lead from years of lead painting on the lighthouse. This contamination had to be remediated before work could begin on the lighthouse.
The greatest challenge was replacing the foundation discs and anchors at the base of each of the lighthouse legs without compromising the structure further during the hurricane season. This was accomplished with the collaboration of Richard Givens P.E. and Alex Klahm, Architectural and Metal Design, Inc.
Through concerted effort of the Gulf County Board of County Commissioners, St. Joseph Historical Society, The Alfred I Dupont Foundation, and Northwest Florida Improvement Foundation, the site cleanup, lead abatement and property transfer to the County was accomplished with the US Air Force, Eglin Air Force Base.
Restoration of the Lighthouse is the final major piece on this site to complement the previously restored “twin” Keeper’s Quarters, which is regularly open for tours by the St. Joseph Historical Society.
The Architect was able to coordinate with the US Air Force and Eglin Air Force Base (previous site owner) for the lead paint abatement and site clean up by the Air Force Base and for this work to be the match for grant funding for the remaining restoration and painting. The Architect was able to prequalify a handful of general contractors with similar experience for bidding. The successful contractor was RestoCon Corp. who had teamed with an excellent metal contractor who has significant lighthouse experience (Alex Klahm, Architectural and Metal Design, Inc.).
This successful project was restored according to the Secretary of the Interior’s Guidelines and Standards.
2011 Historic Preservation Award Winner
In addition to full service building and renovation design, MLD Architects has extensive experience in roof design and consultation. Randy Lewis is a recognized roofing systems expert, and has written articles for Florida AIA magazine and Florida Roofers magazine. MLD Architects has earned an excellent reputation for diagnosing roof problems, and offering corrective solutions. Due to his expertise, Mr. Lewis has provided expert testimony on numerous cases.