After nearly a century of giving comfort and guidance to mariners and the military, the Hillsboro Inlet Lighthouse is getting greater exposure.
A beacon to South Florida boaters since 1907, the 142-foot-high black and white octagonal structure is one of five lighthouses in the nation appearing on postage stamps this year.
"This lighthouse was chosen because it is a true example of beauty and a colorful example of America's lighthouses," Jo Ann Feindt, district manager of the U.S. Postal Service, told a crowd of more than 300 at a ceremony last week at Hillsboro Inlet Park in Pompano Beach.
"Hillsboro Inlet Lighthouse is a jewel of Broward County," County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman said. "It is a tangible reminder of our present and our future."
The stamp is part of the third series of lighthouse stamps issued by the Postal Service, which also includes lighthouses at Old Cape Henry, Va.; Cape Lookout, N.C.; Morris Island, S.C.; and Tybee Island, Ga.
The event also unveiled a commemorative stamped envelope emblazoned with an additional rendition of the lighthouse by retired local architect Paul Bradley, which is also available at www.hillsborolighthouse.org.
Ezra Osborne sold the 3-acre parcel in 1903 to the federal government for $150.
The Coast Guard petitioned 17 times to build the structure, said Hillsboro Beach town historian Carmen McGarry. In its early years, when there were no paved roads leading to it, a building on the lighthouse property served as a schoolhouse, he said. The lighthouse keeper earned $125 a month while his two assistants earned $115 and $110 monthly.
The lighthouse has aided homeland security, by providing a lookout spot for sentinels during World Wars I and II. The sentinels reported suspicious or threatening activity along the coast to superiors in Washington, D.C., via radio, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Harvey Johnson told the crowd.
The lighthouse also has provided an invaluable vantage point during some government drug operations and during hurricanes and other weather disasters, Johnson said.
In 1966, the light became the third most powerful in the world, capable of throwing a beam for 28 miles. In 1974, it was automated, and in 1979 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1995, workers sandblasted the tower to remove lead-base paint.
Built with structural iron piping with 192 special cast-iron joints and 80 iron tension rods with a cast-iron turnbuckle, the structure rests on cast concrete secured with lead and steel bolts to bedrock. On the grounds are two keepers' dwellings, a crew barracks, shop-garage and radio building, now used as an office.
The lighthouse is unique for its original "clamshell" Fresnel lens, which once floated in a pool of mercury. The turning mechanism was replaced with a ball-bearing system because of the toxic nature of the mercury. The lighthouse also was noteworthy for its "octagonal skeletal structure" designed to help it withstand hurricane winds, Johnson said.
While technology has made it easier for boaters to negotiate the waters safely and radio for help, the lighthouse still serves an important function, said Hibbard Casselberry, president of the Hillsboro Lighthouse Preservation Society.
"Sometimes boats go out with nothing more than a few life jackets," Casselberry said.
The society plans to raise money for two projects adjacent to the lighthouse: the erection of a statue of the "barefoot mailman" who first delivered mail to coastal residents and a replica of an 18th century water fountain. It also plans to replace Australian pine trees near the lighthouse with indigenous plants, Casselberry said.
"What we must remember is that this lighthouse represents all of our communities, not just one or two," McGarry said.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times