THE LIGHTHOUSE, SEMINOLES, AND MUSEUM
In 1853 Congress authorized the building of a lighthouse at Jupiter Inlet. Jupiter was one of six Florida lighthouse projects assigned to a young Army Lieutenant named George Gordon Meade, born in Cadiz, Spain. Meade selected the site and created the original design for the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse. His successor, Lieutenant William Raynolds, improved on the final design by adding height and a double wall. Edward Yorke, a civilian, oversaw construction of the tower. Before construction began, engineers discovered that a storm had closed the inlet. The inside waters became stagnant, breeding malaria. Moreover, the unarmed work crews were delayed by the eruption of the Third Seminole Indian War. When the project finally got underway, construction materials had to be brought down the Indian River in small, shallow-draft barges. The majority of work on the 108-foot lighthouse, adjacent oil house, and keepers’ house were completed in less than six months. The tower was officially lit on July 10, 1860.
When the Lighthouse became operational in 1860, relations between the Seminoles and the early settlers of Jupiter were friendly. The Seminoles lived in the interior, but made frequent trips to the lighthouse and the Jupiter area via the Indian River, the Loxahatchee River, and along the coast, using dugout canoes as transportation just as the Jeaga of the past. In those years, communication was still difficult, since neither the Seminoles nor the Jupiter Inlet pioneers spoke each other's languages very well. However, the Seminoles adapted quicker than the settlers, as they had more interest in trade. Eventually, they would spend time camped near Center Street, then the heart of Jupiter’s business district, where they visited and traded with the lighthouse keepers and other early pioneers.
The Seminole Chickee you will see at the museum was constructed in May of 2009 by James Billie, Chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, as a tribute to the history of Seminoles people in this area and their trade relationship with early settlers and Lighthouse Keepers. The large Chickee is called a “place to learn something” or an “ah-tah-thi-ki chickee.” This one is made with 3,400 leaves of saw palmetto fronds. They are wrapped and tied onto the horizontal beams during construction and are placed 2-3 inches apart. The Chickee is an opportunity on the tour to stop and tell the story of Native American Indians and is also used for the monthly children’s story and learning activities. Benches are placed along the inside of the Chickee for this purpose. It is one of the most fragrant and refreshing places on the property.
On your tour, visit the Tindall Pioneer Homestead, the earliest house still existing in Jupiter. Originally located a mile up the Loxahatchee River next to the early Pennock Plantation on the south side of the river, the 1892 house was home to George Washington Tindall and Mary Pilcher Tindall and eight of their ten children. The homestead gives a glimpse of early life along the Loxahatchee for brave pioneering families. The building is typical of houses built by early settlers in Florida. Called "cracker style", its characteristics are a pitch roof, porches and wide eaves for shade, multiple windows and doors for light and ventilation, and slatted shutters. The roof was originally palmetto thatch, later replaced with tin due to risk of fire. Rain ran down the steep roof into a barrel or cistern, from which the occupants drew their only potable water. The house was fully restored and moved to the museum property to provide the homestead exhibit. The front porch, breezeway and summer kitchen were reconstructed from photos. A non-historical ramp has been added on the east side of the breezeway for the convenience of visitors. Both house and kitchen are furnished from the museum’s collection and feature furniture and objects from many of Jupiter's early pioneers.
The Loxahatchee River Historical Society’s Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse & Museum occupies the last remaining building from an important World War II installation that existed alongside the U.S. Coast Guard on the Lighthouse Reservation. That installation was officially called a U.S. Naval Supplementary Radio Station, code named Station J. The museum two-story building was originally a Naval Married Men’s Quarters. The Florida State Historic Marker immediately to the east of the building was dedicated February 11, 2007. The U.S. Navy constructed this building (circa 1939) on land included in the Federal Jupiter Lighthouse Reservation established by President Franklin Pierce in 1854. Built as Married Men’s Quarters, the two-story wood-frame building had six two-bedroom apartments, each with brick fireplaces, and a continuous screened first-floor porch facing the Inlet. During World War II, Navy personnel lived in this building. Developed to locate the German submarines off the Florida coast, Station J also served as a navigational beacon for military ships and aircraft. Station J was closed in July 1945. In the 1960s, the Navy gave this building to the U.S. Coast Guard. In 2004, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management transferred ownership to the Town of Jupiter.