A new sculpture greets visitors as they enter the city of Marathon, a community located in the middle of the Florida Keys. Perched next to each welcome sign on the Overseas Highway (one on Grassy Key at the northeast end of town and one on Knight’s Key at the southeast end) is a scale replica of the historic Sombrero Lighthouse. The lighthouse is a Marathon icon, which was built over 150 years ago to warn sailors of the dangerous reefs offshore in the Atlantic Ocean. The City of Marathon even features an image of the lighthouse on their official seal.
Replica of the historic Sombrero Lighthouse — Photo courtesy of Andy NewmanThe sculptures were built by Islamorada-based artist “Lighthouse Larry” (Larry Herlth), and they weigh about 1,000 pounds each. At 14 feet tall, they are rusty red to match the color of the real lighthouse. The signs feature a special LED light at the top and uplights powered by solar panels.
Herlth has also built replicas of the 160-year-old Carysfort Lighthouse located off the northern end of Key Largo and Islamorada’s Alligator Lighthouse. You can find his other sculptures displayed outside Upper Keys banks and restaurants, including a 20-foot replica of Alligator Lighthouse at Islamorada's Kaiyo Grill.
The tallest of the six lighthouses located in the Keys, Sombrero is a popular spot for snorkeling and diving, but the structure itself is off limits to the public. Both the city and Herlth hope that seeing the Sombrero replica at Marathon’s entrance will pique the public’s curiosity enough to learn about its fascinating history and get them out to see the structure in real life.