Right now, the sounds of construction punctuate the Lighthouse grounds, as a new building takes shape. The Maritime Archaeology & Education Center (MAEC) will house offices, education space, a maritime archaeology center, and a new exhibit space. Behind the scenes, our Interpretation division is working with exhibit designers to create an engaging and informative exhibit detailing the history of the St. Augustine Lighthouse and the people that lived and worked there.
The new exhibit is entitled Legends of the Light with plans to open summer 2017. It will tell the stories of the lighthouse keepers and their families who called the St. Augustine Lighthouse home. Visitors will learn about the first night William Russell lit the light at the top of the tower. They will see photographs of the Old Spanish Watchtower and get to examine a model of the tower as it looked before the ocean claimed it in 1880. The exhibit also highlights the stories of Maria Andreu and Kate Harn, two keepers’ wives who themselves served as keepers at the St. Augustine Light Station after the passing of their husbands. Continue reading →
When you think about lighthouse keepers, what comes to mind? Maybe it is long, lonely nights dutifully keeping the lamps burning for ships unseen. Alternatively, perhaps it is a long day spent painting the lighthouse tower. Lighthouse keeping meant a hard life, especially as we think about it today. Who do you imagine did these tasks?
During the lighthouse boom of the 19th century, jobs requiring a rugged self-reliance would have been male dominated endeavors. While both sexes had worked equally hard on the frontier during the 17th and 18th centuries, the Industrial Revolution cemented for the next 200-years western views of men’s role as the worker and women’s role in the house. The Lighthouse Service was no exception to this rule. Even though entire families worked from dawn until dusk at light stations across the country, males made up the overwhelming majority of government appointed lighthouse keepers, who received pay for the work they performed.
As you might imagine, visitors to the St. Augustine Lighthouse are often excited about climbing the tower and enjoying the amazing panoramic view from 140 feet in the air. But in your excitement to climb the 219 steps to the top, you may overlook many small details that reveal some interesting stories of the Lighthouse. And if climbing the tower is your only concern, then there are many other details you will miss in and around the Keepers’ House and grounds. Next time you visit, see if you can spot some of these staff favorites.
1. Stair markings
It is quite a climb up 219 steps to the observation deck, also called the “gallery.” Eager to complete the climb, you could easily miss the first item on our list. If you look very closely, you will find small numbers and letters on the iron staircase. Continue reading →
Presenting Enlightened! A New St. Augustine Lighthouse Educational Program
Have you ever wondered about the history and science behind the St. Augustine Lighthouse? Well, wonder no more! We are going to take you along on an exploration of all the amazing things we do here at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum in our new YouTube series, Enlightened!
Enlightened is a way for us to share more with you — more stories, more history, more preservation, and more of the research we are doing every day to expand our understanding of people who interacted with the waterways around St. Augustine as part of their livelihood.
As the series grows and expands, we hope to add more interviews, viewer Q&As, and other elements that will allow our viewers to interact with the show and get all their burning Lighthouse questions answered.
Episode 1: The Fresnel Lens
For our first episode, we wanted to explore the heart of our Lighthouse (and all lighthouses, for that matter): the Fresnel lens! This magnificent piece is equal parts science and art, built with care and now preserved with care by our Museum staff.
Join us as we go inside the lens room (one of the few places at our Museum that is not accessible to the public) for an up-close look at our first order Fresnel lens.
Make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel to catch each additional installment of the Fresnel lens episode in the coming weeks.
Paul Zielinski is Director of Interpretation for the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. He received his master’s degree in Public History from the University of West Florida and joined the lighthouse family in 2011.
It’s been about a month now since Hurricane Matthew took a swipe at St. Augustine and the rest of Florida’s East Coast before basically tracking along the shoreline up to North Carolina and finally heading out to sea. Low-lying residential areas, especially along the beaches and inland waterways, were hit hard with floodwaters and many downed trees and power lines. Downtown St. Augustine suffered flooding as well.
The Hurricane and the Lighthouse
The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, despite our location on Anastasia Island, weathered the storm well. When the U.S. Lighthouse Board picked the location for this Lighthouse to replace the old lighthouse that was threatened by beach erosion, they chose well. No floodwaters reached the Lighthouse or Keepers’ House. The only physical damage, besides several downed trees, were a few shingles missing from the roof of the Keepers’ House and a set of windows blown out of the Lighthouse and later found in a nearby tree. Continue reading →