The St. Augustine Lighthouse’s First Order Fresnel Lens is included in the French Heritage Trail published by the State of Florida.
The Lighthouse lens was hand blown in Paris in 1874, specifically for use in St. Augustine, so our Spanish City has a French night light. According to the American Lighthouse Coordinating Committee archives, there are only 16 such original, first-order, Fresnel lenses in light towers as working aids to navigation in the United States. The publication of the State French Heritage Trail was announced at the Florida Historical Commission Board meeting on-line on July 14, 2010.
In early days the lens was lit with whale oil, and its lamp cleaned with a goose feather duster by lighthouse keepers. During the 1980s, a vandal’s bullet damaged this rare, hand-blown lens. The Antique lens was restored by the Junior Service League of St. Augustine (JSL), while Virginia Whetstone was the Chairperson of the JSL. The JSL worked with Dan Spinella to measure and document the prisms, and with Joe Cocking and Nick Johnston from the USCG to perform the first lens restoration of its kind in the and the World. The Cable News network covered the relighting ceremony on CNN; during the first ever Lighthouse Festival some 21 years ago in March.
Today, the Saint Augustine Lighthouse staffers maintain the lens (with a little continuing help from Cocking and Johnston’s Lighthouse Lamp Shop) and keep the light on for the Saint Augustine community. Weekly cleaning is completed with support from a dedicated volunteers including Dennis Tisher—retired from Northrop Grumman and Mike Horne, of Telephone Equipment & Sales. Thanks to all for your help in caring for our lens.
If you would like to volunteer to help the museum keep our light and amazing lens shining please contact: Loni Wellman at 829-0745, or firstname.lastname@example.org.