The Key West Art & Historical Society just launched its Lighthouse Sunset Experience, making the top of the landmark available for a champagne sunset rental for up to six people. BILL BRACKMAN/KWAHS

The Key West Art & Historical Society is rising above the pandemic, quite literally, by designing a new small-group, outdoor experience at the top of the historic Key West Lighthouse.

The society, which operates the Lighthouse Museum & Keeper’s Quarters, is making the top of the lighthouse available for rent for a champagne sunset gathering that can accommodate up to six people at a time.

The new Lighthouse Sunset Experience is available for 90 minutes, 45 minutes before and after the scheduled sunset, said Michael Gieda, executive director of the KWAHS.

“It’s time for some positivity and bringing people together in a safe manner,” he said. “We want locals and visitors to be able to enjoy one of the best views of Key West’s while rising above the pandemic and politics of today.”

And rise above it they will, with sunset guests climbing the 88 winding steps to the top of the lighthouse that opened in 1848 and was decommissioned in 1969.

The Lighthouse Sunset Experience “permits exclusive access to the Lighthouse, Keeper’s Quarters, and grounds for groups up to six for 90 minutes,” Gieda said. “Each experience includes a complimentary bottle of wine or Prosecco, artisanal meats, cheeses, or sweets from Uva Wine Shoppe here in Key West.”

While the setting is ideal for couples and marriage proposals, Gieda said the society is getting inquiries from people planning birthday parties, anniversaries or just an intimate evening with their quarantine group.

The 360-degree vistas show uninterrupted views of the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, just across Whitehead Street, as well as the gulf, ocean, Southernmost Point and much of the city’s historic district.

A bright history:

Almost immediately after the U.S. Navy established a base in Key West in 1823, the need for a lighthouse became evident to ensure the safe arrival of both military and commercial vessels navigating the shallow, reef-laden waters off the Florida Keys, the society’s website states.

The current lighthouse opened in 1848 with a female lighthouse keeper, a post nearly unheard of in the 1800s. In the years following, the Key West Lighthouse underwent a number of upgrades including the installation of a third order Fresnel lens, an extension to the tower that allowed the light to be seen from a greater distance, the addition of Keeper’s Quarters, and finally the electrification of the light.

“In 1969, the U.S. Coast Guard decommissioned the Key West Lighthouse, as there was no longer a need for a full-time light keeper due to technological advancements. Today, this sentinel of the sea stands as a museum dedicated to Key West’s maritime heritage and to the men and women who bravely kept the light burning through the threats of war and weather,” the society says.

“Today, visitors can walk up the 88 steps to the top of the light as well as explore the belongings, photographs, and words of the lighthouse Keepers and their families who lived a now obsolete, but never forgotten, way of life.”

Normal lighthouse visits are available Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Per COVID-19 guidelines, the number of people in the museum will be limited.  Masks are required while on museum property, both indoors and outdoors, and visitors need to practice safe distancing.

The Lighthouse Sunset Experience must be booked at least 24 hours in advance, with COVID policies still in effect. In the event of a severe weather event, the experience will be rescheduled for the next available date or refunded.For questions or more information, email mgieda@kwahs.org and visit kwahs.org.

Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.