ILLUMINATING APPARATUS: Jewel of the Forgotten Coast

Returning to Light: The Journey of the Crooked River Lighthouse’s Historic Fresnel Lens

The Crooked River Lighthouse has long stood as a beacon in the maritime history of Florida. First lit on October 28, 1895, it originally featured a rare 4th Order Bivalve Fresnel Lens. Crafted in 1894 by the renowned French lens and clockmaker Henry Lepaute in Paris, this unique lens has made a remarkable journey from its origins to its current place of honor in the newly opened exhibit at the Lighthouse Keeper’s House Museum.

The Lens and Its Legacy

The original 4th Order Bivalve Fresnel Lens of the Crooked River Lighthouse is not just a piece of equipment; it's a work of art and engineering. Characterized by its bivalve shape—a distinctive 90-degree separated bullseye group flashing glass—this lens was a technological marvel of its time. Manufactured just a year after the introduction of bivalve Fresnel lenses in the United States at the 1893 Chicago Columbia Exhibition, it is believed to be among the first of its kind installed in the country.

A Timeline of Illumination and Restoration

  • 1894-1895: The lens is manufactured and installed, marking the beginning of its service to guide mariners navigating the waters near Carrabelle, Florida.
  • 1933-1952: The lighthouse undergoes electrification and automation, signaling modern advances in lighthouse technology.
  • 1976: Due to health hazards from mercury leakage, the original lens was decommissioned and replaced.
  • 1995-2000: After the lighthouse was decommissioned, the Carrabelle Lighthouse Association (CLA) formed and located the lens at a 8th Coast Guard district headquarters  New Orleans.
  • 2005-2019: Restoration efforts ramp up, culminating in the Coast Guard’s agreement to return the lens on a long-term loan.
  • February 19, 2020: The lens makes its triumphant return to Crooked River Lighthouse.
  • January 13, 2023: The lens is relit, now powered by a modern electric motor and a 25-watt bulb.
  • February 4, 2023: The new exhibit opens, featuring the lens in a specially crafted display that mimics the lighthouse's tower room.

The Exhibit: A Beacon of History

The newly opened exhibit at the Crooked River Lighthouse Keeper’s House Museum invites visitors to step back in time and discover the rich history of maritime navigation. The exhibit includes not only the original Fresnel lens but also interpretive panels and artifacts related to the evolution of mariner communication. Funded by grants from the Florida Lighthouse Association, this interactive display educates and inspires, celebrating the legacy of the Crooked River Lighthouse and its historic lens.

Visit and Discover

We invite you to visit the Crooked River Lighthouse and experience the luminous history of this remarkable artifact. Whether you’re a history buff, a maritime enthusiast, or simply curious about the past, the story of the Fresnel lens offers a unique glimpse into the technological advancements of the 19th century and the enduring importance of lighthouses in nautical navigation.

For more information on visiting hours and special tours, please visit our website or call 850.697.2732 or inquire at

Join us and be a part of preserving and celebrating this beacon of history!