Skip to main content

Hurricane survivor

The motoryacht Sabbatical passes Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse on the Loxahatchee River on Florida’s Atlantic coast in 1958.

The dark-red structure (coated in colored cement to preserve its stonework) is a familiar fixture along the Intracoastal Waterway, but through the years Mother Nature has done her best to take the old light down — all to no avail. Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse is a survivor, and mariners can thank Civil War hero Gen. George Meade for that.

Image placeholder title

Meade, known today for engineering the Union victory at Gettysburg, began as a prolific coastal construction engineer, designing six lighthouses in the 1850s, including Cape May and Abescon lights in New Jersey and Sombrero Key Light in Florida. His Jupiter Inlet structure opened in 1860, boasting walls more than three feet thick at the base and a foot-and-a-half at the top. Its

mineral-oil lamp, turned by a 250-pound counterweight, was visible 20 miles out to sea.

Several major storms battered it during the 19th century, but nothing compared to the storm of 1928. The light was being changed over to electricity, and the lamp was actually off when the hurricane struck. In an act of heroism typical of those who worked in the lighthouse trade, keeper Capt. Charles Seabrook and his family got the old mineral lamp up and running manually for two days. Winds were so strong that the lighthouse swayed more than seven inches at the top.

Storms in 1933 and 1949 — the latter with 165-mph winds — caused some damage to the tower and outbuildings, but the light never lost a beat. In 2004, it was struck back-to-back by hurricanes Frances and Jeanne, surviving both. Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse remains an active navigational aid and is home to a museum run by the Loxahatchee Historical Society. Tours are offered to the top of the light, where you can see Capt. Seabrook’s repaired lens, still in place. Go to for information.

This article originally appeared in the September 2009 issue.