The Ponce Leon Inlet Museum is not officially a sister museum with the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse Museum but the bond between the two is close enough the inlet museum overlooking the Atlantic Ocean near Daytona Beach is willing to lend a valuable exhibit for six months to Sharon McKenzie and her lighthouse crew at the southern tip of Gasparilla Island roughly 220 miles away.
The exhibit called "Filibustering to Cuba - A Stephen Crane Experience" refers to the term turn-of-the-20th century Americans used when trying to overthrow foreign governments.
The Port Boca Grande Museum exhibit details the near-death experience Crane endured as a reporter for a Jacksonville newspaper syndicate to chronicle the exploits of the "Commodore" as it sailed for Cuba. The Commodore was shipwrecked on Dec. 31, 1896, which left Crane clinging to life with three other sailors in a small dinghy.
The nine-story Ponce Inlet Lighthouse is the tallest in Florida and perhaps the nation.
The exhibit is a loaner from the Ponce Leon Inlet Museum, centered by the famous red-brick, nine-story lighthouse with 203 daunting steps. The Ponce Leon Inlet Museum is a much larger production than its Gasparilla Island-based counterpart.
Indeed, the 175-foot Ponce Leon Lighthouse soars higher than any other Florida lighthouse. Its brick walls are 8 feet thick at the bottom and 2 feet at the top. Its 1,000-watt lamp is still operable for private navigators although there is no deepdraft post for larger ships to use.
Employing on-grounds lighthouse keepers much as Boca Grande did before lighting advances made it unnecessary, the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse faced other dangers such as attacks from Seminole Indians during its construction.
The Ponce Inlet Museum grounds today sport 10 different buildings. Attractions include a nature trail, garden area, historic oil storage building, U.S. Lighthouse service bell, Lens Exhibit building, first and second assistant keeper's dwellings, principal keeper's building, boatyard, woodshed video theater and gift shop.
It attracts roughly 100,000 visitors each year compared with the record 22,000 the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse Museum drew in 2011.