All posts by Kathy

St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum closed due to Mandatory Evacation Order

St. Johns County to Open Evacuation Shelters and Issue Mandatory Evacuation for Zones A and B

St. Johns County, Fl – Due to intensified conditions of Hurricane Dorian, St. Johns County has issued mandatory evacuation orders effective for 8 a.m. on Monday, September 2 for Evacuation Zones A and B, which includes the entire City of St. Augustine, the City of St. Augustine Beach, and those living on waterfront property or in flood-prone areas.

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is located in Zone A. The nonprofit Museum will be closed Monday-Thursday, September 2-5. Reopening date and time will be announced once Hurricane Dorian has passed.

In addition, the County has ordered evacuations for Hastings and Flagler Estates. For evacuation information, including route maps and evacuation zones, please visit

Residents living aboard boats, and those living in RVs, mobile homes, and manufactured homes throughout St. Johns County are also included in the evacuation order. Residents who are able to evacuate and are not utilizing a St. Johns County shelter should begin evacuating as soon as possible prior to the evacuation order scheduled for Monday, September 2 in order to minimize traffic congestion.

St. Johns County will also open six shelters at 8 a.m. on Monday, September 2. The County is prepared to open additional shelters as needed. The following shelters will be open to the public:

• Pacetti Bay Middle School, 245 Meadowlark Ln. (Special needs)
• Timberlin Creek Elementary School, 555 Pine Tree Ln. (Pet-friendly)
• Southwoods Elementary, 4750 State Road 206. (Pet-friendly)
• Pedro Menendez High School, 600 State Road 206 West. (General population)
• Bartram Trail High School, 7399 Longleaf Pine Pkwy. (General population)
• Osceola Elementary, 1605 Osceola Elementary Rd. (General population)
While shelters provide safety throughout the storm, residents must bring supplies in order to maintain personal comfort and sustenance. St. Johns County recommends that all evacuees bring their own bedding, including sleeping bags or air mattresses, pillows, sheets, and blankets. A five-day supply of water, non-perishable food, medication, diapers, and other personal items are also suggested. Please refer to the list below for additional supply suggestions:

• At least five-day supply of medications, insulin and cooler if you are diabetic.
• Personal grooming and hygiene items, feminine supplies.
• Extra clothing, eyeglasses.
• Books, magazines, cards, games, etc.
• Pillows, blankets, sheets, lawn chair/chaise lounge.
• Flashlight and extra batteries, manual can opener.
• Personal identification/important papers.

For more information, please call the St. Johns County Emergency Operations Center Hotline at 904.824.5550.


Statement Against Isolated Finds Legislation

On behalf of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, our Executive Director Kathy A. Fleming stands with our colleagues at the Florida Association of Museums against the Isolated Finds Legislation that is currently under consideration by the Florida Legislature.

Here is the official statement from FAM:

FAM LogoThe Florida Association of Museums (FAM) represents over 400 art, history, science, and children museums in the state from the very smallest to the largest. As repositories of our cultural heritage in Florida, FAM opposes the passage of HB 803 and SB 1054, “An Act Relating to Historic and Archaeological Artifacts,” currently being considered by the Florida Legislature. If HB 803 and SB 1054 were to pass, the consequences could endanger archaeological sites all over the state and impact the integrity of Florida’s historic record and cultural heritage.

We believe that archaeological artifacts should be left in the natural environment, however there are times that progress will disrupt those areas. In those cases, experts and professionals are brought in to research, photograph, record, and interpret that particular artifact/s – that way the history can be explained and told when displayed.

There is a fundamental problem with this proposed legislation — it allows private entities and individuals to remove and take title to archeological “finds” from the state’s sovereign submerged lands with a state-issued annual permit. Many times artifacts are found close to other artifacts from the same historical period. Allowing an individual to take a single object without requiring a deeper examination of the site at which the item was found could damage the site and do irreparable harm to the archaeological and historical record. Once removed those artifacts have lost all historical context – making them of little use for future interpretation.

The potential impact for our Museum

Field school student Jonathan Kozack holds an artifact recovered from the 1782 British Loyalist wreck that will be documented in the upcoming Wrecked! exhibition.

As we prepare to launch our new exhibition, Wrecked!, later this spring, we are also reaching the pinnacle of more than six years of excavation, research, and conservation. Through our careful, scientific process, we have recovered and recorded more than 600 artifacts from a 1782 British Loyalist shipwreck located just off St. Augustine’s coast.

Each of these artifacts carries with it a piece of the story behind this wreck. This story that belongs to all of us, as it is part of our collective history. This story stitches together pieces of crucial U.S. history with St. Augustine’s own unique role North America’s past.

This is the story of our ancestors and without the precise recovery and research conducted by our team, this part of our collective heritage would still remain in the ocean’s shadows.

Pieces like this watch face, also recovered from the 1782 British Loyalist shipwreck, could be lost forever if the Isolated Finds Legislation is passed.
The isolated finds legislation endangers our ability to conduct scientific, historic research in St. Augustine. Artifacts like the ones we have been carefully working to save for future generations could be lost forever.

What can you do?

The Isolated Finds Legislation, HB 803 and SB 1054, will be returning for debate to the Florida Legislation next year.

Please stand with us and let your local representatives know that you support museums and archaeological programs like ours.

Let your representatives know that you want to preserve Florida’s history for the future!

Kathy A. Fleming
Executive Director
St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum

History of the Harn Family at the
St. Augustine Lighthouse

Who were the Harns?

In our new interactive exhibit, At Home with the Harns, you can experience life as it was for Head Keeper William Harn and his family. Harn served at the St. Augustine Light Station from 1875-1889 where he and his family were the first residents of the Victorian Keepers’ House.

But who were the Harns? How did they come to be in St. Augustine?

William & Kate’s Marriage

St. Augustine Lighthouse Keeper, Brevet Major William Harn of Philadelphia, enlisted in the United States Army in 1854 at the age of 19.

Some years later, as a private, he was sent to Fort Moultrie, S.C., where he met the daughter of Ordnance Sergeant James Skillen.  Her name was Kate.

Harn was transferred to Fort Sumter, S.C., where he was when the Confederate Bombardment occurred and the Civil War began.   He and Kate were married in Rome, New York, at the Rome Arsenal on June 2, 1863.  He was 28 and she was 19.

Harn and the Battle of Gettysburg

3rd NY BatteryAfter a 10 day furlough for this “very important personal business,” on June 5th he marched with the 3rd NY Independent Battery, as part of the VI Corps toward Gettysburg, PA.  He arrived there on the 2nd day of the battle bringing 119 men and six 10 pounder parrot rifles.  He had held command of the Battery for less than a month, having been promoted in June. Continue reading

Maritime Research and the Oldest Port

Someone told me this week that Gloucester, MA was America’s Oldest Seaport. Good for them, congratulations.
St. Augustine, FL is the “Nation’s Oldest Port” and those things are quite different. What we mean when we say Nation’s Oldest Port is that we are the oldest continually occupied European (A Port is a European concept) economic and defensive sea-hub in the Continental US, or put another way in any of the 50 states in the United States today. We date from 1565. And we remain linked to the sea. Puerto Rico, a US territory, has an even older, continually-occupied town and port. But no where in any of the 50 states that make up our nation, is there a continually occupied port city older than St. Augustine.
We see maritime history as about the “America’s” and transatlantic ocean voyages and about Atlantic World history, and not simply about one Nation’s history, but we recognize that our particular port’s significance lies in the fact that we are the oldest port in what is now considered one of the 50 official states in our Nation.
We are not claiming to be the first landing site for European’s, or to be the first port in the 13 original American Colonies, though by the time St. Augustine was the Capital of East Florida, a British Colony during the American Revolution (Perhaps the 14 or 15th in the New World) the Spanish had been here for hundreds of years. We have documents dating the King of Spain mentioning a port here in St. Augustine as early as the 17th century. So does that small city in MA. But again, by that time we had already been here, and had an aid to navigation, a Spanish watchtower that later became a lighthouse, for the better part of a century.
We also want to congratulation the City of St. Augustine on it’s First American Birthday Celebration, set to culminate in 2015. We believe and celebrate the fact that Europeans did not discover America, only explored it and settled it. Native peoples were already here, and the first American’s in Florida that lived a life “of the sea” certainly deserve to be heralded. We believe the City’s chosen name does that beautifully, while still contributing to the public’s understanding of the way Spain contributed to the multi-cultural history of what we call the United States of America.
We are pleased to see the City pick up and run with the “nation’s oldest port” concept, but we caution that we are not “America’s oldest seaport” those things are quite different. The America’s have many older ports, and the original American English colonies have a unique place in all our hearts. No, we are more accurately our nation’s oldest port, and our nation is a place that celebrates a rich multi-cultural history, a theme first studied by our Nation’s Oldest Port Heritage Area group in preparation for a hoped for designation by congress so that our community can control and cooperate on stewardship of a host of cultural and natural resources.
That point brings me to the study of a little known group, the black mariners who came to St. Augustine and Ft. Mose in small boats as runaway slaves. Later African American mariners gathered oysters in the Victorian era and held beach oyster roasts for Visitors from Henry Flagler’s grand hotels. A small African American girl was killed here at St. Augustine Lighthouse during the construction of our 1876 tower, and yet the history of these people that built our maritime infrastructure is little understood. We hope to tell that tale in cooperation with Freedom Road, who are also working on the City’s Birthday Celebration.
According to Dr. Sam Turner of the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program, writing in a report on the Dredging of Salt Run for the Army Corp on Engineers, Florida itself was discovered and founded in part due to Slavery in the Bahamas. After Columbus’s famous voyages, Spain sailed from Island to Island looking for natives to become slaves. A hurricane blew one of these vessels off course and a “vast undiscovered land was seen” that in turn, led to the officially sanctioned voyage of Juan Ponce De Leon in 1513, and La Florida was born.
What do you think about these distinctions and ideas? Do they matter? Why? What does maritime history tell us about ourselves?

04/15/08 Public Meeting for National Maritime Heritage Area

National Maritime Heritage Area Workshop
Please join us for a National Heritage Area Feasibility Workshop
(Feel free to bring a brown bag lunch.)
Tuesday, April 15, 2008 – 12:30 pm until 5:00 pm
GTM NERR Environmental Education Center
505 Guana River Road
Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida 32080
RSVP requested by April 11, 2008
Contact Pam Troll at 904-829-0745, ext 224 or