The Cape San Blas Lighthouse stayed lit in Gulf County for more than a century, warning approaching ships of the unusual shoreline from 1885 until it was decommissioned in 1996.
Since, it has moved off the cape to a safer location in Port St. Joe, where it remains standing as a monument to its past.
But during the holidays, the lighthouse re-lives its glory days, lighting up the coast again and drawing in visitors with its splendor.
In 2018, shortly before Hurricane Michael, a group of Port St. Joe residents came together with the idea of decorating the lighthouse for Christmas, and despite the storm, they were able to collect enough donations from local businesses to string 60 strands of lights on the structure, which overlooks St. Joseph Bay.
Last year, the city fronted the almost $5,000 electric bill for the Port St. Joe Historical Society, which leases the lighthouse property from the town.
“It’s gettin to be that time of the year that we allow a group to put up lights on the lighthouse,” said Port St. Joe Mayor Rex Buzzett in the city’s Nov. 2 meeting. “Everybody looks forward to that, how pretty it is and all.”
“You know, of course we all get lobbied on it. We all love the lights. There’s no doubt… But part of the lease is we pay the power out there.”
Buzzett wasn’t sure whether the group who puts the lights up would be able to contribute some to the electricity bill this year, but he and the other city commissioners agreed that as long as the decorations were confined to the holiday season, the lights would be within the city’s budget.
In just the few years the lights have been put up, they have become one of the city’s most beloved holiday traditions.
The Cape San Blas lighthouse is an imposing presence on Port St. Joe’s shoreline year round, remaining one of Gulf County’s tallest structures to this day, and the lights make it particularly striking.
Over the decades, the lighthouse has come to be symbolic of the community it protected – weathering many storms, but remaining strong.
“This light house always will have a special place in my memory and heart,” wrote local Julie Boulanger on a Facebook post celebrating the Christmas lights. “It was our joyous beacon amid the rubble after Michael…can’t wait to go see it!”