Shining Light on Buried History

Shining Light on Buried History

Grant Year: 2021 | Focus Area: Arts, Culture & History | Grant Amount: $101,820 | Grant Status: In Progress

Shining Light on Buried History

Pensacola Lighthouse Association, Inc. dba Pensacola Lighthouse & Maritime Museum

The mission of the organization is “Preserving the Past to Enlighten Our Future.” In 2006, Dianne Levi, a local historian, gathered a small group of Naval Air Station Historical Society members and formed the Pensacola Lighthouse Association (PLA). By the end of 2010 the lighthouse and gift shop were open full time. With support coming in from admissions, sales, and donations, the PLA set a plan for restoration, and restoration of the lighthouse tower began in 2012 with an IMPACT 100 grant. PLA successfully completed four additional project phases. The multiple projects include stabilizing the historic filigree staircase and other interior repairs, recasting and replacing 110 of the tower’s stairs, repairing the iron work at the top of the tower and reinstalling a central support pedestal for the Fresnel lens. Two previously demolished historic structures have been reconstructed. The Carriage House serves as Pensacola Lighthouse Visitor Center and Gift Shop, and the Outhouse is a mini exhibit in the yard. Each structure is also accompanied by a large interpretive panel that explains the structure’s history and purpose in the lives of the Lighthouse Keepers.

Project Description

Recent excavations at the Pensacola Lighthouse have unearthed the possible mid-19th century homestead of a man named Charles Hart. Charles Hart was an African American enslaved laborer who helped construct many facilities aboard the Navy Yard – including the Lighthouse. Using oral histories from Charles Hart’s descendants, historical documentation, and this new archaeological data, it is Pensacola Lighthouse Association’s wish to preserve and interpret the site. IMPACT 100 funds will be used to construct an archaeological park near the site of the Hart Homestead. This archeological park would serve as an outdoor exhibit interpreting the life, legacy, and contributions of Charles Hart and others with similar stories. The exhibit is an opportunity for the Pensacola Lighthouse Museum to reflect the diversity of this community more accurately in the interpretation of the site, and to present a much-needed, fresh perspective on the history of the Lighthouse and its surrounding area.

Community Impact

As a cultural tourism attraction, the Lighthouse Museum regularly serves audiences across all ages, genders, nationalities, and from locations around the globe. Most frequently, the Museum serves Escambia County as well as two adjacent counties – Santa Rosa County, Florida and Baldwin County, Alabama. The images, stories, and messages that are selected for display in a museum can have strong effects on visitors' perception of the site, the community, and of broader society. As such, this exhibit will have two unique impacts: (1) exposing guests who may never have been exposed to these aspects of local history i.e., the role that slavery played aboard Naval Air Station Pensacola, and (2) in broader Pensacola, the treatment of African American communities, the contributions of Black individuals and families, and the story of Warrington Village, thereby increasing cultural awareness. The project will facilitate an environment where communities with a connection to these histories, such as African American visitors with a familial connection to Warrington Village, can see themselves reflected in a formal museum exhibit while visiting the Lighthouse.