Rawlings, author of The Yearling, captured rural Florida’s essence as well as the sustaining importance of magical places. Our month-long stay on Florida’s Treasure coast has revealed this coastline’s multi-layered enchantment.
Our visit to the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse & Museum during our stay with friends Victoria and Arnie illustrates the point.
On display at the Museum are artifacts from the Jobe (“hoe-bay”) and Jeaga (“hay-gwa”) cultures. These people carved and navigated dugout canoes through South Florida’s waterways. Sharks, manatees, deer, squirrel, sea turtles, mullet, snapper, sea grapes, coco plums, and saw palmetto berries provided abundance to the Jobe and Jeaga.
A crushed metal container represents the Museum’s next enchanting layer. In 1660, according to records in Seville, 33 Spaniards were found stranded at Jupiter Inlet. They are thought to be from the San Miguel Archangel which sailed in 1659 from Cuba transporting messages and valuables to Spain’s King Phillip IV. In 1987, a Jupiter Beach lifeguard discovered the crushed container, several cannons and anchors at Jupiter Inlet. Between 1990 and 2001, the wreck’s search has produced several thousand pieces-of-eight, gold bars, and an 80 pound silver bar.
The still-operating Jupiter Lighthouse, is a Museum focal point. The site was one of six sites chosen following a survey by an Army Corps of Engineers survey team that included Lieutenant Robert E. Lee. The Army assigned the six projects to Lieutenant George Gordon Meade, who a few years later would defeat Lee at the battle of Gettysburg.
World War II-vintage military buildings provide the Museum’s last history lesson and enchanting layer. In 1939, the U.S. navy established an intelligence listening post, known as “Station J” near the lighthouse. Station J monitored the low radio frequencies needed to locate German U-boats, intercepted these signals, warned Allied ships, and provided intercepted material to Washington for code breaking and translation.
Jupiter Inlet. The lighthouse is visible as the slender red line at the intersection of the Inlet and the waterway coming from the picture’s right hand side. Due to its constant shoaling, Jupiter requires local knowledge for safe entry.