One of the great things to see in Key West is the Key West lighthouse located at 938 Whitehead Street. The history of the lighthouse dates back to 1825, when a 65 foot whitewashed brick tower was constructed to warn ships of the dangerous shoals around the island. Between the height of the lighthouse and the dune on which it stood, it was the tallest structure on the island. Michael Mabrity, who was a harbor pilot and mariner from St. Augustine, was appointed the first Keeper of the lighthouse with his wife Barbara as his assistant. When Michael passed away in 1832, Barbara became the Keeper for the following 32 years, taking excellent care of the lighthouse. Unfortunately, the Great Havana Hurricane of 1846 completely destroyed the lighthouse. Although Barbara Mabrity miraculously survived the tragedy, there were fourteen bodies that were recovered near the lighthouse, many of whom were Barbara's children.

Construction on a new lighthouse began in 1847 after the U.S. Congress allocated $12,000 in funds towards the project. The new tower was completed in 1848, and Barbara Mabrity continued her duties as Keeper despite her terrible experience during the hurricane. Over subsequent years, there were several upgrades completed on the lighthouse, such as the installation of a third order Fresnel lens that made light visible from a further distance away.

Barbara Mabrity maintained her position as Keeper until 1864 when she was fired for making statements against the Union during the Civil War. However, several of Barbara's descendants operated as Keepers of the lighthouse from 1866 to 1915. During this time period, in 1887, a Keeper's Quarters was completed as a home for up to two families. This house contained modern amenities for the time and made it possible for the Keeper's families to have a normal life among the residents of Key West. Later, in 1894, Congress allocated funds for both the maintenance of the lighthouse and an increase to the height of the tower.

The early 20th century brought a new era to the lighthouse as electricity was introduced, thus eliminating the need for a Keeper. Furthermore, the increased use of sonar and radar in the 1960s made the lighthouse obsolete. The lighthouse was eventually decommissioned by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1969 and turned over to Monroe County, which subsequently leased it to the Key West Arts and Historical Society. The lighthouse has stood since that time as a museum that represents the maritime history of the city, and the complex operates as the Key West Lighthouse and Keeper's Quarters Museum.

Visitors to Key West can climb to the top of the lighthouse and examine the various artifacts and photographs that explain its fascinating history. The lighthouse is one of the key historical things to see in Key West and is open to the public daily from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM, but closed on Christmas Day.