Largo Explorer: John Nadon?s lighthouses

By RITA FARLOW, Times Staff Writer
Published October 28, 2007

Okay, so I was a little lost when I happened upon Cork Street NE.

Coming down Fifth Avenue NE and looking for a way to get out onto Bay Drive, I glanced to the right and did a double take when I saw a half dozen large lighthouses dotting the block.

My curiosity piqued, I stopped and asked a man working in the yard about the colorful lighthouses.

"Talk to my neighbor, two doors down," he told me.

So I dropped by. Pam Nadon, just getting home from work, explained her husband made them as a hobby.

I left my card and John called a couple of hours later.

John Nadon said he's been collecting miniature lighthouses for about a decade and has bought or received more than 100 of them.

He made his first lighthouse out of scraps for his own front yard a few years back.

"I'm a carpenter by trade, so I get stuff that's going in the garbage can and stuff that's being thrown away. I'm always looking for a way to use it," he said.

A neighbor liked it so much that Nadon made him one, too. And then another neighbor wanted one and another.

Now, they're gracing lawns in Largo, Seminole, Citrus County and as far away as New York state.

His creations range from 1 to 7 feet tall and have working lights in the top. No two are exactly alike. Nadon uses different colors, changes the style of the windows and doors, and varies the size or shape.

"I have books and books on lighthouses and I've never seen one that looks the same, so I try to style all mine differently," Nadon said.

His love of lighthouses comes from his extensive travels and an appreciation of the water and nautical themes.

I'm not the only one who's noticed them.

Nadon said people often stop to check out his handiwork. Some even take pictures.

The lighthouses have become a landmark of the neighborhood. Once, when Nadon made a visit to the doctor, a woman checking him in recognized his address.

"She asked if I lived on the street where all the lighthouses were. 'Somebody must make those' she said," said Nadon.

For the record, I did find Bay Drive that day, along with a unique little street tucked between Missouri and Highland avenues.

It pays to get lost in Largo sometimes.

DID YOU KNOW? The Statue of Liberty was the first "lighthouse" to use electricity when it lit up in 1886. John Nadon's mini lighthouses may not guide boats, but many still light up. Below, at his home in Largo,Nadon holds an electronic beacon light he uses as a finishing touch on his handmade lighthouses. Nadon, 52, is a carpenter by trade, and a big fan of lighthouses.

DID YOU KNOW? The tallest lighthouse, at about 190 feet some sources count the underground foundation, is the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in Buxton, N.C. However, the one at left, which is not a miniature of the Hatteras light, is only about twice as tall as 1-year-old Gavin Foster, of Largo, who explores the hand-made lighthouseNadon gave to his neighbor, Donna Foster, background, and her family. At least five neighbors on his street have the handcrafted lighthouses in their front yards, making Cork Street a unique road to explore.

DID YOU KNOW? The Cape Mendocino Lighthouse in California is one of the highest at more than 400 feet above sea level. A shelf inside Nadon's home won't help thesemini lighthousesrise quite that high above sea level.

Know a hidden gem we need to write about? A location or business that would make a perfect subject for a Largo Explorer column? Call (727) 445-4151 or e-mail cweimar@sptimes.com