A collection of blogs and musings from the people that work at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum - Florida's Finest Lightstation.

Speaking Directly

A blog by Kathy Fleming, Executive Director of the St. Augustine Lighthouse.

February 3, 2012

Get behind the scenes...

Posted by: Brendan Burke

Jacksonville.com published a nice piece about our behind the scenes tours here at the Museum. If you haven't take one of the tours, they are well worth it. See how the museum works, how we are learning about our past from artifacts buried in the seafloor, and learn about the many things which go on behind the veil to keep our history alive and exciting. Even if you have visited the lighthouse before, or recently, come back for this experience. Visit our webpage too, for more information on how to get involved, for more on our other tours and opportunities, and learn how to contribute to our museum. Read on for more information!

CLICK HERE for the link.

Many thanks to Dan Scanlan for this nice article!

October 30, 2009

Maritime Research and the Oldest Port

Posted by: Kathy Fleming

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?


March 31, 2008

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

Posted by: Kathy Fleming

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

March 6, 2008

Boat Launch a Yo Ho Ho Success!

Posted by: Kathy Fleming

Last Friday night was a wonderful Boat Launch Event, as we launched the Bevin Skiff now christened the William A. Harn, after Lighthouse Keeper William Harn, a man who was at Ft. Sumter as member of the Union army when it was fired upon. This small skiff, designed in New England was perfect for Harn, whose family might have kept such a craft for bringing in supplies from Steam boats named Fern and Armeria, when they docked on what is now Salt Run. This boat is the first finished product of our recently established traditional boatbuilding program, LAMP Boatworks.

UPDATED! More pictures and video below the fold . . .

Continue reading "Boat Launch a Yo Ho Ho Success!" »

February 19, 2008

Can You Help Grow our Community Service at the Lighthouse and LAMP?

Posted by: Kathy Fleming

The Lighthouse would love to have you as a member of our Founding Lights Family. You can make a difference.

It takes a great many of us working together to keep the Light Station strong. It takes all our support to keep the lighthouse preserve and programs going.

Today, we are about $25,000 short of having $350,000 dollars in our small, but growing endowment fund. Why is $350,000 the magic number? Well, when we hit $350,000, then we can apply for another $250,000 from the State of Florida. And that will help us a great deal. It makes us more secure, more stable in a world where changes happen and surprises hit us with new things to repair. It makes us more able to continue wonderful community services like those so many enjoy.

Our Founding Lights Campaign helps preserve and keep alive our story for generations. Fifty percent of every Founding Lights pledge becomes part of the endowment. This money is not ever spent, but and stablity and generates interest that supports programs and our restoration efforts. The remaining funds are put to good use right away.

Won't you help protect the lighthouse? Won't you help save our maritime heritage?

Please join us as a Founding Light!

The Levels Founding Lights: $1,000 per year for five years - Leadership level Legacy Circle: $500 per year for five years - Recognition in a special annual ceremony here and up. Heritage Club: $250 per year for five years Guardians: $100 per year for five years
Find a Pledge Form at this link: http://www.staugustinelighthouse.com/foundinglights.php.

Or call us here at the Lighthouse 904 829-0745.

Kathy Fleming
Executive Director

February 7, 2008

Great Read!

Posted by: Kathy Fleming

I just finished a great book by James W. Raab called, Spain, Britian and the American Revolution in Florida, 1763-1783. It is a really fabulous volumne that sets the "Spanish, British, and back again, transition in the nation's oldest port city in context of the American Revolution. A period of tremendous interest if St. Augustine can claim it's rightful place as part of the true, American story. The book brings to life the facts and texture of the period.

Here is an excerpt from a section on the contruction of the "Kings Hwy" which was being built during the winter of 1774-75.....the road extended from Cowford down along the St. Johns River to the River called St. Mary's.

"It measured 16 feet across with ditches and pine logs laide cross wise in the wet portions forming causeways through the swamps, and crypress bridges across the numerous creeks and streams. The traveler on foot, on horseback or with a wagon could traverse British East Florida from the vincinty of the Beacon at Mosquito Inlet (Ponce Inlet lighthouse), New Symrna to the capital, St. Augustine, and continuing northward to the ferry house at Cowford, across the St. Johns River.....The Rev. John Forbes praised the road, naming it the "King's Hightway." The colony was no longer dependent on the Atlantic Ocean for it's existence, provisions and egress.." (Raab, 2008, pp 58-59)

According the Raab, the Paton, Leslie Company established trading posts on plantations and in other areas outside the walled colony during this period of intense groth. They exported " naval stores, lumber, pelts, and imported cloths, coarse linens from (See other LAMP Blogs about the maritime culture in Ireland) sugar, salt and other commodities." (2008, p. 59).

IThe book really does include maritime history, sea battles and other items, such as the migrations into the Carolina's down the Pennsylvania Wagon Road, as it sets our local history in context.

Another excerpt. "In 1775 Moses Kirland, a British informer from South Carolina, sailed to Boston to report on conditions in the Carolinas. He was captured not far from his destination by a Continental schooner. Because he was carrying charts of Charleston and its harbor, he landed in a Philadelphia prison - but not for long. Escaping jail in the spring of 1776, he returned to East Florida, where he was appointed a deputy in the district of the Seminole and Creek Indians. In March 1778, the determined Kirkland set sail from St. Augustine for Philadelphia to submit a plan for the invasion of Georgia and South Carolina......this time Kirkland...completed his assignment...In November, two detachments were sent from St. Augustine by General Prevost..." (p. 113).

This is all part of the true picture of life in this area during the American Revolution. The book is available from Amazon and is published by McFarland. It may be available as well in local museum stores. I'd check locally first!! We don't yet have it at the Lighthouse.

Great read!


December 5, 2007

Slide Show From the Far Past to the Recent Past

Posted by: Kathy Fleming

December 4, 2007

The Jefferson Davis Links to the Hunley

Posted by: Kathy Fleming

Forensic facial reconstruction of J.F. Carlsen, former helmsman on the Jefferson Davis who perished on the H.L. Hunley submarine offshore Charleston, South Carolina.

This information comes from a LAMP volunteer about the crew of the Jefferson Davis which sank off the bar in St. Augustine to the north of the lighthouse.

Corporal J. F. Carlsen
(April 15, 2004 - CHARLESTON, SC)
J. F. Carlsen was a European by birth. He seems to have been drawn to danger and adventure. Before he lost his life on the H. L. Hunley at approximately 20-23 years of age, he had crossed the Atlantic, run the blockade surrounding the South, and been part of a crew taken over by a mutiny. He was also recognized for bravery during fierce battles for his service to the Confederacy.

Continue reading "The Jefferson Davis Links to the Hunley " »

September 26, 2007

Of Old Ports, Lighthouses and Ben Franklin.

Posted by: Kathy Fleming

The following is written on a New England Lighthouse web site. http://lighthouse.cc/boston/history.html History - page one

Boston lighthouse) holds a place of honor among our nation's beacons. This was the first light station established on the North American continent, and the last in the United States to be automated. It's also our only light station that still retains an official keeper.

Because Boston Light was destroyed in the Revolution and rebuilt in 1783, the tower itself is the second oldest in the U.S.....It's recorded that there was a beacon on Point Allerton in Hull as early as 1673.

Sorry, in St. Augustine we scoff (in a friendly way) at 1673. Heck, we were a 108 by then. Maybe they got the idea for the 1673 lit watch tower from St. Augustine? Yes, Boston is important, and claiming first American lighthouse is significant. But claming first "North American" watchtower is a different thing all together.

An exciting point from this excerpt about Boston is the report that fires burned in towers very early on at Hull. This happened before they were designated "lighthouses." What does that mean? Is it important in some way? Let's explore it a bit more.

Consider this quote from Puertos del Estado, a Spanish web site discussing Spain's port system. The quote below has been translated into English, See the original at: http://www.puertos.es/es/index.html

The origins of the visual aids to navigation date back to the humans' first attempts to discover new commercial routes, going far a way from the coast in their vessels. In the daytime, the geographical unevenness oriented these men. However, at night, they needed to use the light emitted by bonfires burning in strategic coastal points in order to come back to the port. Since the rain or the wind extinguished these bonfires, they were protected with a kind of structure...Thus, the lighthouses started....

After the fall of the Roman Empire...countries were focused on the wars more than on the social and economic development. Few new lighthouses were built...Morever, the existing lighthouses were destroyed.

Since the 12th Century, the navigation in the Mediterranean Sea and in North Europe was reactivated. In order to guarantee the safety in the shipping routes, lighthouses were built. Thus, Scandinavia and Germany had the best-lit coast in Europe (15 lighthouses in 1600).... In addition, bonfires were placed on existing watchtowers such as Porto Pi in Mallorca.

Hmmm? So, according to Spanish historians, Europe used lighthouses formally as early as 1600. More excitingly for us, there is a recorded history in Spain of lighting watchtowers!!!

I believe the question is not "How early was there a lighthouse?" But rather, "When did economic activity and coastal defense call for maritime aids to navigation? It is at this point that we begin to discover when the "port" became a "port" and not just a ship's landing site."


Continue reading "Of Old Ports, Lighthouses and Ben Franklin. " »

September 18, 2007

Visitor Comments !!!

Posted by: Kathy Fleming

One of our fabulous Educator's posted this on our internal home page. It's a look at the comments left in our "keeper's log inside the lighthouse tower." Thought I'd share it good and bad.

9/7 - Friday
Words of encouragement: "Don't be afraid of heights" (editor's note: Very sound advice)

9/8 - Saturday
Guests were quick to assess the weather on rainy days...
"It stinks"
"Rain, rain, rain"...followed by more..."rain, rain, rain"

But when the rain cleared..."B-U-T-Ful"
"Worth climbing the steps for!! :)"

"Rainy, but worth it"
"Rain! And children slipping around!!" (editor's note: That's why we have 'Wet Floor' signs out there, folks!)
"Fantastic Restoration"
"What a beautiful structure!"

9/9 - Sunday
"Great! Back from last night's tour!"
"Fun - legs hurt - hot"
"Great view, great photos"
"Clear, 6 miles, my mom on the bench in the woods"
"I can see my house from here"
"Nice paintbrush"
"The sea, pallea(?), and a lot more. I was awesome" -- written by Clive, who looks to be a young'un.

9/10 - Monday
"Hard climb/breathtaking view. Didn't like the decent!! But worth it!!"
"Great view - climb was not as bad as expected!"
"Whiney kid but great time"
"Awesome. Thanks for keeping this part of history alive."
"It was a long way up."

9/11 - Tuesday
"Always wanted to come here!"
"Clear, bright, shiny day"
"Does it ever get warm here?"
"Light sprinkles"...followed by "Heavy Rain"
9/7 - Friday
Words of encouragement: "Don't be afraid of heights" (editor's note: Very sound advice)

9/8 - Saturday
Guests were quick to assess the weather on rainy days...
"It stinks"
"Rain, rain, rain"...followed by more..."rain, rain, rain"

But when the rain cleared..."B-U-T-Ful"
"Worth climbing the steps for!! :)"

"Rainy, but worth it"
"Rain! And children slipping around!!" (editor's note: Wet floor signs out.)
"Fantastic Restoration"
"What a beautiful structure!"

9/9 - Sunday
"Great! Back from last night's tour!"
"Fun - legs hurt - hot"
"Great view, great photos"
"Clear, 6 miles, my mom on the bench in the woods"
"I can see my house from here"
"Nice paintbrush"
"The sea, pallea(?), and a lot more. I was awesome" -- written by Clive, who looks to be a young'un.

9/10 - Monday
"Hard climb/breathtaking view. Didn't like the decent!! But worth it!!"
"Great view - climb was not as bad as expected!"
"Whiney kid but great time"
"Awesome. Thanks for keeping this part of history alive."
"It was a long way up."

9/11 - Tuesday
"Always wanted to come here!"
"Clear, bright, shiny day"
"Does it ever get warm here?"
"Light sprinkles"...followed by "Heavy Rain"
Grimm Window Cleaning said our windows were smeared. (Editors Note: They are sometimes in a nor-easter; it's the salt spray that does it; or it could be sticky kids fingers....lots of those in this life too. Thanks for telling us! In the old days they hung off a board called a cradle to paint and clean them.)
"This proves that 'Behind Every Cloud, There is a Rainbow'"

9/12 - Wednesday
"Whew! Did it!"
"Hard walk - wonderful view"
"Ne par el Putas vuelo a subir"
"Hot" followed by..."It's only in your head. -Nice & Warm-"

9/13 - Thursday
"Clear, temp mid-80s, hot! Wonderfully maintained site"
"Yet again a wonderful well maintained site. Thank you, USA" (Written by Visitors from the UK)
"Lovely town, people are great! Thank you :)"
"Warm, pretty, there is a 2 masted boat stuck in the sand"
"Boy it sure is hot!! Awesome view."
"Is it me or is it hot!! Great view by the way."
"Sehr gut"

9/14 - Friday
"Great weather, amazing view, worth the climb!!!"
"I'm speechless, not breathless" <-- "Me too!"

9/15 - Saturday - Florida Lighthouse Day
"It was great. I'll be back to do it again."
"Awesome and thanks to Art for the info up there."
"Warm but nice. Carl went ALL the way up. I got scared and decided to come back down."
"Pura vida!"
"Loved it. My 3rd time climbing"
"View as fine as frog hair!"
"I have climbed numerous lighthouses. The view is of the best I've seen! Key West being the 2nd best. See you again."

9/16 - Sunday
"I just found out I'm scared of heights!!! Or falling!!"
"it was windy it was cool"
"Just added to a perfect weekend."
"Great views. Lots of sweat."
"I survived the steps! Beautiful day :)"
"I did not eat the berries"
"Lots of steps, couldn't believe they had to carry the oil all the way"
and to end on a good note...
"We got engaged!"

That's all for this week!

Visitors from the States:
Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Vermont, Virginia

Bolivia, Bulgaria, Columbia, Costa Rica, England, Germany, Japan, Puerto Rico, Scotland, Ukraine
"This proves that 'Behind Every Cloud, There is a Rainbow'"

September 6, 2007

New Stories of the Old Spanish Watchtower

Posted by: Kathy Fleming

I received an typical late night email from friend and FLA LH historian Neil Hurley. Neil and I argue about the first tower in St. Augustine in a friendly way and hopefully share interesting points with each other.

This time he sent something very interesting from 1839.

This snip comes from The Columbian Navigator; Sailing Directory for the American Coasts and The West Indies, printed in London in 1839, page 133. Neil helped me find it on line. He tells me that this publication uses a variety of sources including those who lived in the British period in Flordia. Since it's a secondary publication we can't be sure it's 100% accurate. Most things written about the St. Augustine Lighthouse are not 100% accurate, but Neil's work is some of the best out there.

Here is the embedded snip from the following link: http://books.google.com/books?id=w8oBAAAAYAAJ&printsec=toc#PPR49,M1 (Recovered Sept 6, 2007)

By the way, The talented CDR Hurley, (USCG retired) has just published with the help of Middle River Press a wonderful volume about Florida Lighthouses. The book entitled, "Florida's Lighthouses in the Civil War" is available for pre-sale at the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum store. A case has been ordered and will be shipped soon.

It's a hard cover, 176 page volumne with beautiful color photos and wonderful, rare stories about lighthouses and ships during Florida's Civil War. I was very impressed with it, and hope you will be as well.


August 29, 2007

More Tales from the Jeff Davis Chronicles

Posted by: Kathy Fleming

For those of you who love Civil War History, here is a story ssociated with the Confederate Privateer Jeff Davis. Thanks to Mr. Tim Jackson, a LAMP volunteer for this interesting info.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle is available on-line. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle was published between 1841-1902. I will warn you that some of the descriptions on the web from the 1861 papers are very graphic. My snip below stops short of that. The website is: http://eagle.brooklynpubliclibrary.org/Default/Layout/Includes/BE/NavigationSites/Phaseone.htm.

The (parenthesis) include my notations.

On July 25, 1861 the Brooklyn Daily Eagle Reported.

New York has got another hero, and Barnum (PT Barnum) has him on exhibition for the delight of all who patronize his signular establishment. The reader will remember that on Sunday morning last, Wm. Tillman...made his bow to an appreciative New York Public... Tillman was a steward (cook) on board the schooner Waring; she (the schooner) was caputred by the Jeff Davis privateer, and a prize crew put on board here. The Waring was then turned southward, and it was pretty broadly hinted that the colored (African American) steward would be turned into cash (sold into slavery) as soon as the vessel reached Charleston. Tillman, not unnaturally, determined to avoid this catastrophe, and he killed three of the privateers....Tillman modest narrative may have been effaced from the public mind and we reproduce just its salient points....

(Eagle, On-line, Recovered by Jackson, T, 2007)

Tillman Photo Harper's Weekly, 1861

(The drawing may be referenced at: http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/civil-war/1861/august/schooner-waring.htm)

The narrative goes on to describe how the prize crew of the Jeff Davis were killed with axe blows to the skull and dumped over board. Then Tillman, without any real training in navigation steered the Waring back to the port of New York.

Continue reading "More Tales from the Jeff Davis Chronicles" »

August 14, 2007

How Close did the Bear Actually Get?

Posted by: Kathy Fleming

Pretty Close. What's happening to Black Bear's in the Smokey's? Well, their numbers are recovering in the National Parks and National Forests around my home town. We recently had a terrific time camping there with our family. We tent camp. It was loads of fun.

We aren't those tourists that run after bears. Bear's are majestic in their natural habitat and we feel lucky and blessed to have seen them. But the encounters also left me wondering what would become of the bear. The park was crowded. Lots of people ran toward the bears we saw. While some seemed ok with this, this fellow seemed a bit stressed out to me.

Bear Nose

He was wandering around mid-day (something bears do when they get used to human food) just off the Loop Road in Cade's Cove while we were sitting in a line of traffic. The first photo is the bear walking behind our car. The second is the bear approaching. A line of car's had stopped obviously to see the bear. Some tourists abandoned their autos and ran toward it. We happened to be in the direction that the bear ran to get away. He ran right into traffic.

Bear Approaches

We saw three bears while touring the historic sites and mountain valley that is Cade's Cove. Cade's Cove is in the Smokey Mountains National Park In Tennessee. It's very crowded, but just as beautiful and special as I remember. The NPS is doing a remarkable job in this area of returning native species and blending cultural and natural resource management. Bear populations are rebounding although an attempt at re-introducing the wolf seems to have hit a snag. The park's new managment plan calls for bringing back native plants that may help rebuild the eco-system of small rodents and other small animals neccessary to support the food chain for other predators. The mountains once supported wolves and panthers. Native Americans hunted here and burned the fields periodically. Later Euro-american's (mostly the Scots-Irish who traveled to this area from Pennsylvania in the 1700's) settled and farmed.

The open fields are filled with wildlife in the early morning and the loop is closed to vehicular traffic on Wednesday. You can tour by bike. We saw, three bear and maybe 16 deer, four wild turkey, a ground hog and a host of other critters during our Tuesday drive. Great fun.

Another photo of Dry Falls on Hwy 28, on the Road to Highland's, NC shows one of many remarkable waterfalls in the Smokey Mountains. Incidentially, my home town is not too far away. I was born in Asheville, NC. My family (Some of those same Scots-Irish with a bit of French and English thrown in) lived in Pensacola, NC on the back side of Mount Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi. Perhaps this is why, when I came to Florida, I became a lighthouse keeper. I have an affinity for high and remote places. One of our family names is McMahan. It is the Irish spelling of the Scottish clan name Matheson. Mahan is the "clan of the bear."

Dry Falls NC

Hope you enjoy these photos.


July 20, 2007

More Jefferson Davis News From Long Ago!

Posted by: Kathy Fleming

More ferretted out archival information about the loss of the notorious, Confederate, privateer Jeff Davis in St. Augustine comes from the New York Times, September 7, 1861. This account is from Mr. F.C Dutneux, one of the crew and originally was told in the Richmond Enquirer.

The full, interesting tale, much longer than is shown below, can be purchased from the Times Archive On-line http://select.nytimes.com.

"They then turned their course, with a light wind for St. Augustine, Fla. Upon nearing the coast the wind increased, until finally it blew a perfect gale. The vessel had crossed the gulf safely, and on Friday night, the 15th, they hove to, and found themselves in sixteen fathoms of water. At daylight land was discovered with a clear coast. They were then about 10 miles south of Mantanzas. Squared away they made for the St. Augustine bar. Found the tide too low upon their arrival and stood off.

The captain hoisted the Confederate Flag at the fore-topgallant mast and fired a gun as a signal for a pilot. Three attempts were made to get into the harbor, but it was found they could not weather it. The people on shore kept a light burning for them, as was afterwards discovered...

Continue reading "More Jefferson Davis News From Long Ago!" »

July 17, 2007

Documents Shed Light on Maritime Significance

Posted by: Kathy Fleming

The University of Miami at the following link http://scholar.library.miami.edu/shedd/letters/62oct19.html#lighth lists the letters of Calvin Shedd a New Hampshire Solider that spent time in St. Augustine during the Civil War.

We made a personal discovery and read the Shedd Papers in our search for information about the Confederate Privateer and former Slave Ship the Jefferson Davis. While it is impossible to know what Shedd meant by "beyond" the Lighthouse, this letter -- brought to our attention by one of our LAMP volunteers --- does reveal many colorful and personal details about the period and it's link to maritime history.

One of the remarkable tasks we perform at the lighthouse is the finding, gathering and saving artifacts and information about how the Nation's oldest city is inextricably linked to the sea. No doubt this letter was discovered first, long before we came along, but it's information may be new to some of you. Note the steamer bringing mail as well as the wreck of the Davis. I am also intrigued by the description of the gun boats that would be needed to hold the town if any Rebels were about.

Continue reading "Documents Shed Light on Maritime Significance " »

March 30, 2007

Florida Lights, Why Save Them?

Posted by: Kathy Fleming

There is a $23 milllion dollar need for Florida's lighthouse properties. If you take the Florida lighthouse study of 2002, and add 5% for inflation and hurricanes each year, you come up with a staggering need based on bifurcated missions and overlays of ownership. Lighthouse expert and preservation architect Ken Smith of Jacksonville is the expert who helped set these very modest numbers: Here are some samples:

$3.5 million to stabilize Alligator Reef. This lighthouse was named after the USS Alligator, a schooner built to help fight slavery, that wrecked in the keys.

American Shoal Lighthouse - $1,186,250.00 Another keys lighthouse in real danger of being lost forever.

Boca Grand Rear Range Light - $362,500

Dry Torgutas at Loggerhead key $543,750.

Egmont Key, the top is off this one and it's rusting. The DOD has paperwork needed for transfer to an owner who can help perhaps? It's needs by architect's estimate are around $1,458,875.00

These are just a few of the needs out there. Governor Crist gets it. He's put $5 million to begin this work in a request. The money is supposed to come recreational lands funds.

The House put money in too at this writing, but has the money coming from a different place. They put the money in competition with Special Cateogories, but we specifically were told by the Governor's staffers that this was not the target funding source.

Continue reading "Florida Lights, Why Save Them?" »

March 12, 2007

Cape Canveral Lighthouse Restoration

Posted by: Kathy Fleming

I have heard from The Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Association, the lantern room has been hoisted back atop the Cape Canveral Lighthouse. The relighting is set to be scheduled in about a month after final work is completed.

Congratulations to the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse and the United States Air Force for fabulous work in this regard. This is a very unique and special tower at the Cape, and it deserves this kind of treatment. Here is a photo of the lantern at the bottom about to be hoisted up. George Diller, of the Florida Lighthouse Association, receives the photo credit on this remarkable image.

Cape Canveral Lighthouse Restoration


March 1, 2007

Lighthouses a Symbol of Democracy?

Posted by: Kathy Fleming

All we lighthouse people know that lighthouses and aids to navigation, major ones, minor ones, solar powered ones and lights with Fresnel lenses are neccessary to the smooth operation of our economy and saftey. If we read about history of any major searfaring nation or culture, we find an account of the new and growing government setting up lighthouses and aids to navigation. They did so very early on. They continue to do so. Ensuring the safety of people coming into port is critically important.

Is this a reason to save lighthouses? I just returned from a successful trip to Washington DC. I was sitting over a Sam Adams or two (what else?) having a conversation with a very smart fellow that I'd just met about well politics and the world. He asked what I did. I told him. He said to me,

"That is not what you need to say up here. You must really show why it is important to save and preserve lighthouses. Don't say maritime history is important to our culture. Say, "Lighthouses are our symbol of democracy!"

Yes! I like this. Lighthouses literally protected the huddled masses seeking our shores. and They are symbolic of freedom and the chance to make it here in the land of opportunity. They are a symbol of our desire as individuals to be both safe and free. This is what they are really about.

I think he has a very good point. Lighthouses are critical to us as a nation for very practical reason, but they are much more than the sum of their parts. They are also symbols of our hope in the darkest hours and of our desire to be free, to reach out and settle new worlds and make safe the way for others who follow.

So my question is do you think he was right as well? I will probably never see this fellow again, but I really do think he was right. He made me think about my profession in a new way? What do you think? Why is this true? Or is it full of hooey?


February 22, 2007

Looking for Information on Gulf Lights

Posted by: Kathy Fleming

I have been asked by Mike Vogel, President of the ALCC, to present a brief update on hurricane damage in Florida and Gulf Coast Lighthouse at the 8th Annual Maritime Heritage Conference in San Diego this upcoming October. Mike is doing a great job putting together the lighthouse track.

If you have information about a lighthouse that is suffering from Hurricane damage and is recovering or has recovered, and you'd like me to share it, you can post it here or let me know by snail mail or email through the link on our web page. Or give me a call at the St. Augustine Lighthouse.

Information about the conference can be found at the following link: http://www.sdmaritime.com/ContentPage.asp?ContentID=421

Yours in Light,

February 2, 2007

What Do You Think of Taking Out Fresnel Lenses?

Posted by: Kathy Fleming

What do you think about taking out lighthouse lenses and putting them in a gallery setting? The St. Augustine lighthouse keeps her lens on and working in the tower. We think that this is fabulous, and it is more and more rare. Sometimes we work with other groups to teach them how to be Private Aids to Navigation.

So are lenses safer in or out of the tower? Why or why not? Yes, I have an opinion, but I'm interested in what others think.

Cheers and Happy Weekend.

February 1, 2007

Ken Black, Mr. Lighthouse, Leaves Us

Posted by: Kathy Fleming

The Director of the Maine Lighthouse Museum passed-over this week. I thought I'd take time to share a little about him. When the Florida Lighthouse Association this last weekend I talked and listened mostly to David D'Amicol tell some stories that involved both he and Ken and various USCG exploits during nor-easters on the Great Lakes. What brave guys!. I did not write this, but here is a snip from Ken's life history from his Obit that went around:

Black is largely credited as being one of the principle founders of the lighthouse preservation movement in the United States, and the first person to have a national newsletter about lighthouses, which always ended with his personal comments and the statement, "Be neighborly," a philosophy that he was known to live by.

Born on June 29, 1923, Black was a Coast Guard veteran of World War II and he saw action at the invasion of Okinawa. After the war served throughout New England and the Great Lakes in various capacities including, being OIC at the Point Allerton, Massachusetts Life Boat Station; Commander of a lightship; Group Commander of the Quoddy Head Coast Guard Station in Lubec, Maine; Commander of the Coast Guard Cutter Ojibwa and he finished his over 32-year Coast Guard career as Commander of the Rockland, Maine, Coast Guard Station.

His interest is saving lighthouse artifacts began when he realized that many items were being discarded as automation changed the way lighthouses had been operating since the late 1700's. He first created an exhibit at the base of Boston Lighthouse in the 1960's, an exhibit that is still there to this day. As well as being the first Coast Guardsman to decorate a lighthouse at Christmastime, he stared the First Marine Exhibit at the Rockland Coast Guard Station, which evolved into the largest collection of lighthouse lenses and equipment in America. By the time he had retired from the Coast Guard in 1973 he was the official curator of the First Coast Guard District.

When I was just a newbie at lighthouse keeping, well I didn't know much about it. I didn't know what a rich community of lighthouse keepers were out there to help and support us here in St. Augustine. I had not yet come to depend on friends like Joe Cocking or Cullen Chambers or architect Ken Smith for advice. I had not yet met Anne Caneer and seen what amazing things she had done at Ponce Inlet. The list goes on and on...but I did sit down and watch a tour of Ken's Black's museum in Maine. I watched him talk about his objects, about aids to navigation, over and over. When I give a tour I still use things I learned that day by listening to Ken talk.

I know a thing or two about museums. And, I know that the museum world lost someone special when they lost Ken Black. But to the lighthouse community it's like loosing our founder and father at the same time. Fair winds Ken, and all our best wishes for happy memories of many years to Dot and the entire Black clan. May you find peace and comfort in your love for each other and for Ken. Our whole community will miss him.

January 25, 2007

My Birthday is Here. Yuk. Well maybe not.

Posted by: Kathy Fleming

I am only five years away from 50. Some might think I'd be shy about talking about this. Not so. I find I am more comfortable with myself the older I become. It is fine with me to be 45. I would not trade it in for 22. Maybe 28...Maybe 32...but no...I think not.....hmmm?

We have a Florida’s LH Association meeting the next day and are planting a tree here in memory of a dear friend, Gene Oakes who led that group. The plaque we are placing says "Gene Oakes, Light Seeker." As president of the Florida Lighthouse Association he was a light seeker. So along with our lighthouse volunteer Barbara Hamel, and Eddie Conlon, Tree Medic and a group of Gene's family and friends we will plant an oak on the light station (what else?) where the shadow of the lighthouse would fall on it and point to it. One day we hope the tree can help return the favor and cast it's own long shadow. Gene would like that.

At the same time my husband’s mother is struggling with the last days of her life. She was a strong person too. A native Floridian, her dad was a fishing guide in the keys. She lived in a small Spanish-styled house on 8th street in Miami. It's still there, but her plants are long gone. When hurricane season came they just boarded up the house and lived there with the boards on the windows. She was Rosie the Riveter in Miami during WWII. She made airplanes, at one time she knew every piece of a B-39 bomber. I think that's the one. She had five babies. My hubby is the youngest. She is a fabulous person.

It seems to me that we've lost and are losting lots of fabulous people. We all face times like this. Times of loss and times of memories. Times of renewal are there too, a tree planting, the telling of as story, the holding of a memory.

We are starting a project on Shrimping. Shrimping is tied to our local lives and the flavor of our existence. Ed Long is writing a book about Shrimping and the families who lived here. We want to help him as we can. We want to save those stories. What do you think about this? I think saving history and especially maritime history is a chance to think about men and women who were very strong and also revolutionary.

The shrimping industry changed the way we live and became a part of our culture. We would love to hear your story about the sea or salt or fishing or shrimping or growing up in Florida. Let us know what you think. And thanks for listening to me or rather reading my bloggin.

January 18, 2007

The New Governor’s Staff Called!!!

Posted by: Kathy Fleming

The Governor is interested in learning more about issues that Florida’s Lighthouses face! Wow, how exciting! How humbling! And it is kind of scary! What an opportunity to share our work and vision. Florida's lighthouses face futures which are both glorious and struggling. Some are stars like well St. Augustine or Ponce or Jupiter or Key West. Others are mired in paper work, red tape and other issues, like Egmont or Mayport. The Coast Guard wants to divest itself of lighthouses and we support that effort. Lots of good people want to do the right thing. We lighthouse preservation types need funding.

The Florida Lighthouse Association a group of about 1000 of us around Florida is trying to get a license plate to help fund lighthouses. Maybe the Governor will help? I hope so. His staffer asked some good questions. He was engaged and interested. He really seemed to care. He asked about the need that lighthouse face. Well, we added it up for him based on a 2002 lighthouse architectural study in Florida. Florida Lighthouses face a $20 Million dollar need. Wow. It is more than even I thought. And I'm someone that spends time pushing others to understand this need. Do I believe that this maritime heritage is so very important? Yes, I do. Do I think we have a responsibility to lead? Yes, absolutely. Saving lighthouses is not only good for a few, it's good for our state and our culture.

Climbing the Lighthouse Tower Ca

I have been taking this class on-line at Gonzaga University about leadership. I am working on my master’s degree in Organizational Leadership, something I have always wanted. It’s fun and it’s challenging. The challenge comes from doing the work at home where kids and dogs and cats and husband make life akin to a Steve Martin movie. There is action and confusion and drama at the center of our lives.

In all this I am thinking and writing about leadership. Leadership interests me in the way that the Civil War might interest a history buff, or the way that energy might interest a physics major. I personally think true leadership comes from faith in others and a willingness to talk about what’s real so that we can move forward together. I think leadership is also born of struggle, and of a need to change the world for the better.

I am grateful to those who lead because I also think leaders can also be vulnerable. Florida’s lighthouse need is real. And the power they hold to help Florida in return, through heritage tourism and economic impact, is real. The need to protect a shared heritage tied to the sea, well that is like saving the story of old salts, of our grandfather's fishing trips, and of the way we think Florida looks and feels in our head. We are saving those precious items that make it valuable as a place to live and work in and to visit. This is real too. Sounds canned. It isn’t. We live and breath it here at the lighthouse.

I am extremely grateful to Governor Crist’s staff for looking into saving our maritime heritage. I did not know much about him when he took office. But this is very much appreciated. We’ll see what comes of it, we are all deeply in debt to him if he can help us save Florida's maritime heritage. It is very much a part of who we are in my view.

January 6, 2007

Wake Forest Was in the Orange Bowl.

Posted by: Kathy Fleming

The WFU football team had a great year. Turns out I love football. My husband has me watching and playing fantasy football and I love it. I’m competitive, so it’s fun to win and I hate to loose.

So, when our College team was in the Orange Bowl we celebrated. It is an academic school without a huge football program. We have a song by Steely Dan, about loosing, "Deacon Blues." We only have about 5K students enrolled at any one time and there are only 30 – 50 thousand living alumni (I heard both numbers.) So when we made the Orange Bowl we went. It was lots of fun.

We lost. But you know what….we saw lots of old friends. It is funny to see how the tough guys had turned into nerds about their children. I find this heartwarming and comforting in many ways. We lost, but we all won too because we found each other again if just for a little while. It was fun to realize that so much of what we live for is camaraderie with one another. Good feelings. Team work is a remarkable thing.

Team work will save lighthouses too…OK so this is a lighthouse blog, it can’t all be about football.

December 24, 2006

Starting to Blog…Speaking Directly

Posted by: Kathy Fleming

Why do I choose to be an Executive Director (ED)of a lighthouse? I ask myself that sometimes. I really have to say it is truly as good as you think most days. Some days it is frustrating when you can’t get everything done that you want to in a day, but then what job isn’t that way?

Shall I introduce myself? I’m Kathy Fleming. I’m a girl from the mountains of NC. My mom taught social studies and my dad was a mechanic. Those skills they had and that unique perspective helps me every day.

Since I am a mountain girl, I sometimes think I do this because it’s the high spot around here. . The lighthouse is a vantage point from which to look out and off to view the world. I like the “space” here and the light itself. But inside, I’m an artist. I have a degree in painting from Wake Forest University (The little school that could.)

I think really I fell into lighthouses by accident. No pun intended. I loved museums and wanted to be part of one again. I started out as a PR person at a big Southern Art museum. I left because I had a great life, but no money. Lived on a chicken farm in a beautiful farm house in Pelzer, SC and then moved to NY State. Culture shock. There I was promoted and eventually directed a small historical society. I wrote a column for the paper, taught a class at Skidmore college.

One day my college crush left a note on my mail box. He was working in a nearby state. I married him not long after. I moved to Florida and watched the Palm trees sway in Ft. Lauderdale. I swam in November and thought Floridians were nuts not to. I would never do this today.

We moved to Brevard county where I raised money for people with disabilities. I have a grandmother who was disabled from birth. But, I wanted to do get back into my profession -museums. As it happened, my husband’s family were/are Thompson’s from the Bahamas and his great grandfather was William Frances “Papa” Thompson of the Hope Town Lighthouse. When we were pregnant with our first we came to St. Augustine as tourists. We saw the lighthouse, but did not visit it. I saw an add in the AAM Aviso for a museum in St. Augustine. It did not say which museum. I sent a resume

So…here I am. It may sound like so much hooey, but I love what I do. I think lighthouses are powerful too. They represent more to me than just remarkable and interesting engineering. They represent a desire of mankind to venture forth and to overcome obstacles. That’s remarkable don’t you think? It’s something we all share. It makes them worth saving. Happy Holidays to All!