Tuesday, March 22, 2011

sugarloaf 's bat tower

During my last visit to Sugarloaf Key, I took a little down-time to visit the "elephant in the room". See, I always knew the
Bat Tower was there; I'd even seen it; but I figured
"what's the big deal"
But, on this particular occasion, the Bat Tower seemed to be calling out to me and I surrendered to the summons. . .

As it happens, Sugarloaf's Bat Tower was one of fourteen
Bat Towers worldwide.
Bat Towers were the brainchild of a Texas doctor named Charles Campbell who's intention was to house bats, that can eat up to 1000 mosquitoes in an hour.
An organic attempt at mosquito control intended to lessen the spread of malaria.

Anyway, in the mid to late 1920's a fairly well-to-do business-guy named Richter Clyde Perky bought a bunch of land on Lower Sugarloaf. On that land he built a fishing lodge (which, I'm guessing is what we call Sugarloaf Lodge today - but feel welcome to check me on that), then cleared and paved what is now called Sugarloaf Boulevard to give his fishing visitors easy access to the Atlantic side of the island.

But even with all that accommodation, Mr. Perky
had a problem.
He couldn't get anyone to stay at the lodge because it was crazy with mosquitoes.
So in 1929, borrowing Dr. Campbell's design, Perky built the 35 foot tall Bat Tower and imported a pant-load of bats
from Cuba and Texas to roost in it and control the
mosquito population,
(remember, 1 bat can eat up to 1000 mosquitoes in an hour)

Unfortunately for Perky though, apparently his bats weren't hungry and when he released them into the tower they flew up and out of the thing and just kept on going, never to return. (oops!) . .
. . .and with them, went the guests at the lodge.

So there stands “Perky’s Folly” (as some locals called it at the time), out in the middle of almost nowhere. An organic attempt at mosquito control that didn't work.
All the same, the Sugarloaf Bat Tower was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1982 and for me, yielded some interesting research and a few good pictures.

1 comment:

RumShopRyan said...

Very cool. I didn't know about the bat tower. Is it hard to get to? I wonder if you researched how to get the bats to roost in the house and not fly the coup like the did. Hmmm.

Thanks for the interesting story.