All posts by Daniel Lee

St. Augustine Lighthouse decorates signs & logos all across the city

By Jayda Barnes, Flagler College intern

The St. Augustine Lighthouse can be spotted all across the city, and not just because the light tower is so tall. All throughout town, the Lighthouse decorates signs and logos for many local businesses, organizations and events.

The Lighthouse shows up everywhere, from the St. Augustine Record to Old City Electric. The tower lights up churches, like Anastasia Baptist Church and the Lighthouse Church of God, and schools like R. B. Hunt Elementary. It illuminates the offices of local businesses—Lighthouse Realty, Leonardi’s Nursery, Jackson Law Group—and practitioners, like Lighthouse Chiropractic, St. Augustine OBGYN and Anastasia Eye Associates. You can even eat under the glow of the Lighthouse at restaurants like Anastasia Diner. The Lighthouse even brightens events, such as the Sing Out Loud Festival and the St. Augustine Songwriters Festival. These are only a handful of the places that use the Lighthouse as their personal beacon of light.

All these lighthouses connect us all to the uniting symbol of the St. Augustine Lighthouse. Wherever you go, the Lighthouse is a representation of pride in our home of St. Augustine. Whether it shows up in your name or your logo, the Lighthouse is honored to shine a light in all areas of your life.

Book Signing: Illustrator Deborah Spiller will sign copies of SNOWBALL, THE BEAR WHO SAVED CHRISTMAS

BILINGUAL CHILDREN’S CHRISTMAS BOOK A GIFT FROM ST. AUGUSTINE ILLUSTRATOR

On Dec 15 and 16 from 1-4 pm, at the St. Augustine Lighthouse Gift Shop, St. Augustine illustrator, Deborah L. Spiller, will be signing and selling copies of the new bilingual edition of SNOWBALL, THE BEAR WHO SAVED CHRISTMAS. With the original illustrations still in place, this larger format softcover edition tells Snowball’s story in English and Spanish and sells for $14.95. Proceeds will benefit the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum.

The original story was penned by Dr. Jerry Gamache of St. Augustine, to cheer up his wife, Millie Koeger, who had been ill for an extended time. The first edition, illustrated by Ms. Spiller, was released in Oct of 2013, several months after Dr. Gamache passed away from a stroke. Millie saw the hardcover book go on the Christmas market before she passed away in 2014.

Debbie, as she prefers to be called, has been a professional artist for over 45 years and has lived in New Jersey, Venezuela, and Grand Bahama Island before settling in Florida. She earned a master’s degree in Fine Arts from Chamberlayne College in Boston, Mass and sold her first art at the age of 23. A full-time resident of St. Augustine, with her husband Peter, her paintings hang in homes, schools, orphanages, and museums. She’s painted everything from flowerpots, walls, and stair treads to a 100-foot by 14-foot mural in the city of Caracas, Venezuela and the pages of children’s books. She laughingly suggests that no one stand around too long or she may just adorn them with a hand-painted fern or flower.

Her friendship with Dr. Gamache began after an introduction by her husband. Gerry had heard about a children’s book illustrated by Debbie and asked her if she’d consider doing his. After his passing, Ms. Spiller presented Snowball at a variety of venues around the county with the profits all benefiting a local charity from animals to libraries. But, she thought offering it in Spanish was important, too.

The Lighthouse Museum and Gift Shop are open daily from 9 AM to 6 PM daily.  For more information about the Lighthouse signing and gift shop, contact Sam Andrews at 904-829-0745. For more information or to contact Debbie Spiller, visit her website at DeborahLSpillerArt.com 

Ghost Tour Experience: ‘Each floor held new secrets about the history of the Keepers’ House.’

The St. Augustine Lighthouse shown on October 31, 2018 during a Dark of the Moon Ghost Tour. Photo by Jayda Barnes

By Jayda Barnes, Flagler College student

The first thing I noticed about the Dark of the Moon Tour was that it was, indeed, very dark. The chill in the air may have been due to the setting sun or the spookiness of Halloween night. The Museum grounds, usually bright with sunlight, faded into the shadows of the trees which hovered around it. The only true source of light appeared in the beacon of its namesake: The Lighthouse.

After receiving my tickets, I rented an EMF meter to sense the electromagnetic fluctuations caused by any ghosts, mostly because I knew my best friend would glare at me all night if I didn’t.

The occasion of the evening only became more apparent as we stood outside of the Museum gift shop, waiting to be led on our spooky journey. Halloween shirts and costumes popped up sporadically in a few of the more festive guests. Promptly at 7:30 pm, our party was escorted to the base of the tower, where we learned the rules for the evening and split into groups. My group entered the Lighthouse first. We stood at the bottom of the tower and listened to the stories of ghosts seen in the past, especially the mysterious Shadow Figure who has been seen peering over the railing down at guests.

Perhaps the scariest moment of the evening came as we huffed our way up the 219 steps to the top of the Lighthouse. The exercise of it was frightening enough, but on top of that, the entire tower was shrouded in darkness, save for the few lanterns dangling along the way. Silhouetted figures painted on the walls of each landing invoked images of the Shadow Figure we’d just been told about.

Despite the fear and the height, everyone made it to the top and embraced the whipping chill of the wind. All of St. Augustine stretched below, hundreds of tiny lights peppering the ground. It was almost beautiful enough to make me forget the ghost story I was standing on.

Once the heat of the climb wore off and the wind became more chilling than relieving, the group made its way back down to the ground. Our guide led us around to the side of the Lighthouse, where she detailed the haunting tale of one Lightkeeper’s plummet from the original tower.

After catching our breath, we journeyed to the Keepers’ House. Stories of fatal accidents and irritable Lightkeepers filled the darkness. Each floor held new secrets about the history of the Keepers’ House. We ended in the basement, where we were released to explore on our own for the rest of the night.

The basement had the most activity of the evening. One man sat in one of the resident ghost’s favorite chairs. As the guest spoke to the room, EMF meters began lighting up red around his shoulders, indicating some paranormal activity. The more we spoke and scanned the room, the more lights lit up, travelling behind the chairs to the back of the room. Upstairs, we explored an area called the Shadow Room, where the energy of the room intensified as soon as we entered. My friend heard beeping in the corner as we searched the room for signs of ghostly activity.

The tour ended at 9:30 p.m., sending us back into the world to reflect on our supernatural experiences. Even with the Lighthouse looming behind us, we carried the eeriness with us into the festive evening. The tour might have been even spookier because of Halloween, but it was also even more fun because of it. As our guide told us, the Museum is “not a haunted house, just haunted.” And on Halloween, when the spiritual veil is said to be thinnest, it’s always possible the ghosts will make a special appearance, just for you.

St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum awarded $15K grant from Volunteer Florida

Volunteer student interns help at summer camp each year at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. This photo is from a 2018 summer camp activity.

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum will receive a $15,000 grant from Volunteer Florida. The Tallahassee-based organization announced this week that it is awarding $360,000 in Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) grant funding to 24 nonprofit and service organizations throughout the state. Each organization will receive a $15,000 grant, and together they will match the funding with $360,000 in local donations. In total, $572,000 will be invested in Florida’s communities.

“We are grateful to Volunteer Florida for all they do for our communities, said Kathy Fleming, Executive Director of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. “We look forward to providing even more civic engagement and educational opportunities through this amazing support!”

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, a private nonprofit, has a current volunteer program that consists of 273 volunteers who donate nearly 25,000 hours each year.

The Museum works with local colleges, namely University of North Florida and Flagler College, to provide internships and opportunities to gain relevant work experience. Internships cover all areas of the organization and include experience with public relations, graphic design, tourism management, public history and history education, underwater archaeology, and artifact conservation and care. The Museum also coordinates with local high schools to provide opportunities for high school students. These roles include office assistant, historic interpreter, collections assistant, and junior camp counselor.

Volunteer Florida’s VGF program, which is funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service, will help grantees use skills-based volunteers to serve Florida students, families and communities. Skills-based volunteerism expands the impact of organizations by leveraging the experience and talents of professionals, such as teachers, IT consultants, accountants and attorneys. This year, special consideration was also given to organizations that can utilize volunteers to help with disaster mitigation and response or reducing or preventing prescription drug or opioid abuse. For more information, please visit www.volunteerflorida.org.

“I’m very proud of Volunteer Florida’s administration of the Volunteer Generation Fund,” said David Mica, Jr., CEO at Volunteer Florida. “It’s a unique program, strategically promoting skills-based volunteerism in order to increase productivity within organizations, and in turn, generate a more significant impact among their respective beneficiaries throughout Florida.”

For more details about the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, visit staugustinelighthouse.org or call 904-829-0745. Stay updated on social media at facebook.com/staugustinelighthouse, Instagram.com/stauglighthouse, and twitter.com/firstlighthouse

ABOUT THE ST. AUGUSTINE LIGHTHOUSE & MARITIME MUSEUM:

A pivotal navigation tool and unique landmark of St. Augustine for over 140 years, the St. Augustine Light Station is host to centuries of history in the Nation’s Oldest Port®. Through interactive exhibits, guided tours and maritime research, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is on a mission to discover, preserve, present and keep alive the stories of the Nation’s Oldest Port® as symbolized by our working lighthouse. We are the parent organization to the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) and an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. (StAugustineLighthouse.org)

 About the American Alliance of Museums:

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the highest national recognition afforded the nation’s museums. The American Alliance of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. As the ultimate mark of distinction in the museum field, accreditation signifies excellence and credibility. Accreditation helps to ensure the integrity and accessibility of museum collections,  and reinforces the education and public service roles of museums and promote good governance practices and ethical behavior. Representing more than 35,000 individual museum professionals and volunteers, institutions, and corporate partners serving the museum field, the Alliance stands for the broad scope of the museum community. (www.aam-us.org)

Summer 2018: One Month, Two Wrecks, and so much Discovery!

Large concretion being hoisted overboard to be returned to Storm Wreck.

After two long months in the field, the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program finished their field season at the end of August. And it led to many new discoveries!

Following a month of field school, with five students and four supervisors from around the country, that worked on both an offshore wreck and a river wreck, we jumped between two sites returning and recovering artifacts at the different sites.

Up close of creamware plate sherd attached to small concretion recovered from Anniversary Wreck this summer.

First, the return to Storm Wreck! It has been three years since active excavations have occurred on Storm Wreck, our 1782 Loyalist vessel. During those three years, the Lighthouse conservators and archaeologists have been prioritizing artifacts for cleaning and for return to the site. Returning artifacts to the site protection! We can’t conserve everything that we bring up, nor do we necessarily want to. Who really wants to see an exhibit filled with ONLY nails!

So this year we returned! Over two weeks, we returned five large concretions to the site. Many were filled with artifacts we already have in other open or conserved concretions or are simple the unexciting finds.

The remainder of the month we continued to excavate the Anniversary Wreck site. After weeks of feeling like we were on repeat digging the same sand from the same level over and over again (like being stuck in a revolving door or having our own Groundhog Day), we finally reached artifacts right at the end, with only four days to spare. The hole took as about four feet under the normal level of the sand! Three of the units were mapped and are being added to the site plan as we speak. Thirteen individual concretions were recovered from the site as well as BUCKETS of dredge spoil! All of which are currently being analyzed by conservators and archaeologist with the help of our amazing volunteers. The Anniversary Wreck concretions from this year, as well as the two previous years, have all be x-rayed to show their true colors.

Archaeologist Brendan Burke recovering a pewter plate from Anniversary Wreck this summer.

So far, we have discovered quite a few interesting objects amongst the all the concretions recovered from the Anniversary Wreck site. Many are filled with an exciting mixture of nails, lead shot, and brass tacks—the nuts and bolts of trade items of the 18th century. The more intricate ones show full padlocks and clothing irons. Stuck to the outside of some of these concretions are ceramics, including a piece of a creamware plate—one of the more datable items from our site. We are finally getting to the artifacts that are providing clues to solve the mystery of the Anniversary Wreck! Stay tuned for further discoveries as they come up this winter!

Archaeologists and conservators examining a large concretion with tile recovered from Anniversary Wreck this summer.