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Pensacola Lighthouse restoration project receives recognition

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The Florida Trust for Historic Preservation is now recognizing the Pensacola Lighthouse for their recent restoration. It took five years and $2.5 million to do it. It was finally completed this year.

The lighthouse will be in the running for national recognition, as well.

As you walk up the 177 steps of the lighthouse, it's now smooth and painted white. There used to be massive cracks on the inside and outside.

Executive Director Jon Hill said it was in bad shape.

"We had to repair 350 feet of cracks. They were so large I could stick my hand in there,” he said.

The stairs were rusted and falling apart, rails missing.

Hill said it needed a lot of work.

"It was a race against time and the degradation of elements, it was a battle every year,” he said.

In 2013, they had raised enough money to start the restoration project. No federal funds were used. Money was raised through grants and fundraising.

Since the lighthouse was built in the 1850s, they had to get it all just right. It wasn't easy or cheap recreating the cast iron stairs.

Hill said, "We started the phase thinking we would only have to repair 30 of the stairs, ended up replacing 110. We digitally mapped the stairs that were there. They came in a 3D laser scanner and scanned the stairs, you can't tell the difference between the old and the new."

The inside was painted, large cracks fixed, and safety measures added. The incredible part is they were able to keep the lighthouse open to visitors the entire time.

On Friday, the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation awarded them with their highest award of outstanding achievement in restoration and preservation.

Hill said, "This is a hundred-year restoration. We've touched every piece of the tower we can touch, now it will be maintenance."

The only thing left to do is to replace the lighthouse lens. It's an incredibly rare Fresnel lens. It is now filled with cracks. Through the help of the organization Impact 100 they will fix that in the fall.

Now that the restoration is nearly complete, they have big plans for the rest of the property. They are working on making it so it's a family attraction for all ages. Within the year, they hope to add a virtual reality lighthouse and possibly a zip line.

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