St. Augustine Lighthouse

On the northern end of Anastasia Island, lays the historic St. Augustine Lighthouse. This lighthouse has played an important part in the history of the United States of America, and has been built and re-built several times. It is currently owned by the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum, Inc. (SAL&M) which is a non-profit maritime museum and also funds maritime archeology and other educational programs.

History of St. Augustine Lighthouse

In 1824, the St. Augustine Lighthouse was the first lighthouse that was established in Florida by the American Government. According to archives, this lighthouse was built on top of an old wooden watchtower site that was built by Spanish settlers. This was attacked by Sir Francis Drake who attacked the city in 1589. By the year 1737, the local Spanish government built a much more permanent tower made from coquina which was mined from a nearby coquina quarry, that is thought to be at modern-day Anastasia Island National Park. This quarry site is presumed to be part of Anastasia Island State Park. During the British colonization period of America, it was alluded to as a lighthouse in 1763.

The Spanish took control of St. Augustine in 1783, and improved the lighthouse once more. Unfortunately, natural erosion occurred and changed the coastline in 1880, when the sea crashed into the old lighthouse tower. Today, these old lighthouse ruins are submerged underwater. However, this archaeological site can still be viewed at low tide as it is marked by smooth stones.

You may be wondering how lighthouses used to work in the olden days. In the earlier days, the lighthouse used lard oil as its fuel source. They used multiple lamps that burned with the lard oil and used silver reflectors to reflect light out into the bay. Fortunately in 1855, these were replaced by Fresnel lenses, which improved the lighthouse’s range greatly as well as eliminated someĀ  maintenance issues.

At the start of the Civil War, the lighthouse keeper, Maria De Los Delores Mestre, and a local Menorcan Harbor Master who later became a future Mayor called Paul Arnau, removed the Fresnel lens from the lighthouse and actually hid it. This was done in order to block the Union shipping lanes. However, the lens and related clock works were recovered after Paul Arnau revealed their location after being held captive on an off-shore ship.

By 1870, the first lighthouse was threatened by beach erosion. So, construction on a new lighthouse tower began in 1871. This tower was completed in 1874 and was put into order with a brand new Fresnel lens. The first lighthouse keeper for this new tower was William Russell, who also worked in the old tower. In 1885, the lamp was finally stopped using lard oil as its main fuel source. After a lot of experiments with different oil types, they used kerosene.

During the 2nd World War, the Coast Guard operated the lighthouse as a lookout tower to see whether enemy ships or submarines were approaching. In 1936, the light source for the lighthouse used electricity. Finally, in 1955 it became an automated lighthouse. As a result, no lighthouse keepers were needed and the original Keepers House was rented out to local residents in the 1960’s.

Visiting St. Augustine Lighthouse

The tower is open every day, except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. However, tickets are required to climb the tower and the last ticket to climb up the tower is sold daily at 5:45 pm as the site closes at 6 pm. However, during July and during many holidays, St. Augustine Lighthouse is open until 7 pm and the last tickets are sold at 6:45 pm.

Please check for the weather, as the observation deck and the tower may be closed for safety reasons due to large gusts of wind and other severe weather issues. Tickets range from $9.00 for adults and $7.00 for children. There is also a special seniors rate for those 60 years and older starting from $7.50. For lighthouse or history lovers, a private lens room tour is available at $500 per person. The tower and its museum are also disability friendly.

For those who truly love horror tales of ghosts and other paranormal activities, a visit to St. Augustine Lighthouse during the weekend is a must. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, a tour called Dark of the Moon: Lighthouse After Hours Tour occurs. This tour is based on the tales that the St. Augustine Lighthouse is haunted after having been featured in popular books, television shows, as well as local folktales for decades. In fact, a recent show by The Atlantic Paranormal Society and Ghost Hunters proved that there are indeed ghosts roaming around this area. As a result, this tour is perfect for Halloween or those who love tales of the paranormal. Who knows, maybe you will have an experience from out of this world joining you!