It is located on the coast of Florida’s Pensacola Bay and is known as the Pensacola Light. It is the third incarnation of the Aurora Borealis, which was originally built as a lightship and is still in use as a navigational aid.
The lightship Aurora Borealis was the first Pensacola Light stationed in the area. In 1823, the lighthouse was relocated from its prior location near the mouth of the Mississippi River, where a lighthouse had been completed. Because of the regular severe waves, the lightship was forced to be stationed inside the bay entrance, behind Santa Rosa Island, where it could not be reliably seen by ships sailing outside the bay entrance.
At the southern entrance to Pensacola Bay, a 40-foot tower was constructed on a 40-foot bluff in 1825 as a lookout. This light was also partially concealed by trees near the tower and on Santa Rosa Island, which were both in the vicinity. The construction of a new tower on the north side of the bay entrance began in 1858, and it was dedicated on January 1, 1859. With a height of 150 feet and a base of 40 feet, the new and current tower on the Pensacola Naval Air Station raises the light 190 feet above sea level, making it the highest point in the state.
The tower’s new placement allowed it to act as the back range light for the Pensacola Bar, which marked the route across the bridge. There is very little information available on the first front range light. In 1879, a new front range beacon was built 448 feet southeast of the light tower, replacing the previous one. A square pyramidal wooden tower, 26 feet tall and perched on a point 29 feet (8.8 m) above sea level, this light, known as the Pensacola Bar Beacon, was 55 feet over the water, allowing it to be seen for 55 miles. It was equipped with a sixth order Fresnel lens and produced a fixed white light that could be seen for 11 miles. The Pensacola Bar Beacon was decommissioned and demolished sometime in the early 1900s, according to historical records.
The Pensacola Lighthouse is still in operation as a navigational aid. Visits of the lighthouse were previously conducted by the Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 17, however those tours were discontinued in 2007. Since 2009, the lighthouse has been open to the public on a limited basis for tours, and it has been open seven days a week since the beginning of 2011. The Pensacola Lighthouse Association is currently responsible for the upkeep and management of the lighthouse and its tours. The lighthouse keeper’s quarters, built in 1869 and located close to the lighthouse tower, now houses a museum and gift store, which is also maintained by the Pensacola Lighthouse Association. The Association is a non-profit organization with a limited paid staff and a big number of volunteers. Check out the nearby Fort Barrancas.