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National Lighthouse Day celebrated August 7 at St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum

Alexander Hamilton was first Supervisor of all U.S. lighthouses

Long before the days of GPS, lighthouses played an integral role in keeping sailors safe on the water. There was no Siri to tell them where to go, so they simply had to fully rely on their wits … and lighthouses.

The first St. Augustine Lighthouse, called the Spanish Watchtower, which become Florida’s first lighthouse in 1824. This tower fell into the ocean in 1880, six years after the current St. Augustine Lighthouse was completed in 1874.

On August 7, 1789, the U.S. Congress recognized the importance of Lighthouses and passed the Act for the Establishment and Support of Lighthouses, Beacons, Buoys, and Public Piers. This act officially put lighthouses under federal control, attempting to make navigation for sailors more efficient and safer.

The act specified that it was “the duty of the Secretary of the Treasury” to oversee that the act’s provisions be carried out. This included maintenance of all lighthouses and aids to navigation, as well as overseeing construction of the mandated lighthouse in the Chesapeake Bay. 

Guests are shown on the observation deck at the top of the St. Augustine Lighthouse. On National Lighthouse Day and every day of the week, visitors can climb all 219 steps to take in amazing views of St. Augustine, Florida. Guests also can learn about maritime history in multiple exhibits on site.

Alexander Hamilton became the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury on September 11, 1789, a little over a month after the Lighthouse Act was passed. Thus, Secretary Hamilton oversaw the transition of responsibility for all existing lighthouses (and other aids to navigation) from the various states and municipalities to the federal government. 

Two hundred years later, The United States Lighthouse Society petitioned for August 7, 1989, to be deemed National Lighthouse Day, in honor of the day that Congress signed the Act. This petition only deemed National Lighthouse Day to be a holiday for that specific year.

Then, on August 7, 2013, the Senate passed a resolution stating that every August 7th be declared National Lighthouse Day. Although not officially law, the recognition of August 7th as National Lighthouse and Lighthouse Preservation Day continues with the government and its agencies, including the National Park Service, which maintains a number of historic lighthouses across the country.

The Junior Service of St. Augustine saved the 1876 Keepers’ House, renovating it and creating a maritime museum, and then asked the US government for the St. Augustine Lighthouse tower and the original Fresnel lens. The lens had been shot by a vandal’s bullet, damaging 19 prisms in the beehive structure. The US Coast Guard shut down the lens in 1991 and replaced it with a modern airport beacon, but the League quickly rose to this challenge. The keepers’ house restoration was finished in 1990, and in 1991, the League signed a lease with the U.S. Coast Guard and opened part time to the public.

“Thanks to the Junior Service League of St. Augustine, the St. Augustine Light Station was saved and a maritime museum was created,” said Kathy Fleming, Executive Director of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum.

“We are nonprofit, mission-centered, and community connected. Our donors and members continue to help us save maritime history and keep the light shining.”

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum will celebrate National Lighthouse Day on August 7. Learn the history of Florida’s first lighthouse in exhibits at the nonprofit Museum and participate in the Nation’s Oldest Port Demos, interactive demonstrations offered daily every 30 minutes from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Museum hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days each week, with hours changing to 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. after Labor Day.

Check out the Conservation Lab on your next visit to the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, which working conservators are preserving historic artifacts.

The 145th anniversary of the historic St. Augustine Lighthouse will be celebrated on October 15, 2019. This second tower was built from 1871-1874, and the first order Fresnel lens was lit on October 15, 1874. Prior to this tower, the Spanish Watchtower was named Florida’s first lighthouse in 1824 by the U.S. government. A wooden watchtower was first built at the site in the 1560s, followed by the Spanish Watchtower, which stood at 70 feet high and was made of coquina, like the Castillo de San Marcos. That coquina came from the quarry on Anastasia Island.

Visit staugustinelighthouse.org for more details.

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)

St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum open during government shutdown

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, a private nonprofit, is open for guests during the government shutdown. Regular hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week. Dark of the Moon Ghost Tours also are available each Friday through Sunday. For ticket and tour details, go to staugustinelighthouse.org or call 904-829-0745.

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is not government owned. In 1998 the Museum was separately incorporated as a not-for-profit institution with a mission of maritime history, education and community service.

Climb 219 to the top of the St. Augustine Lighthouse. Guests are shown on the observation deck of the St. Augustine Lighthouse.

In 1980, the Junior Service League of St. Augustine, Inc., who were then a group of only 16 volunteers, began a fifteen-year campaign to restore the Keepers’ House that was destroyed and gutted by a vandal’s fire. The League went on to restore the lighthouse tower, and with assistance from the United States Coast Guard, they performed the first Fresnel Lens restoration in the world.  The lens had been damaged by a vandal’s bullet, and was almost removed, but the entire community stepped in to save this front porch light for the community.  A maritime museum was opened to the public part-time in 1988 run by volunteers.  In spring 1994, the full site was opened to the public full time. 

The Keepers’ House at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, built in 1886. View multiple exhibits on three levels within the house and basement.

THINGS TO DO

At the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, climb 219 steps to the top of the 165-foot tower for a breathtaking view of historic downtown St. Augustine, the beaches, and the nation’s oldest port.  Discover St. Augustine’s rich maritime history at the site of Florida’s first lighthouse. Explore exhibits in the restored Keepers’ House about the lives of the Lighthouse keepers and their families, and shipwreck discoveries made off the coast of St. Augustine.

Incredible views of the St. Augustine area and the Atlantic Ocean can be seen from the observation deck of the St. Augustine Lighthouse.

Also on site, a WWII US Coast Guard Barracks, Behind the Scenes Tours, a Maritime Hammock Scavenger Hunt, an archaeology lab, and a View from the Top video (for those who don’t climb the Lighthouse) in the Maritime Education Center. For little ones: A shipyard playground and hands-on activities throughout the exhibits and grounds (children less than 44 inches tall can’t climb the tower but get free admission). Don’t forget to shop in the museum store for unique lighthouse and maritime gifts.

View conservation of shipwreck artifacts in the viewing window of the Archaeological Maritime Education Center at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum.

EXHIBITS

  • Wrecked! The Story of a Revolutionary War Shipwreck
  • At Home with the Harns: A Look Inside the Home of a Keeper Family
  • Legends of the Light: Stories from the Lighthouse’s Past
  • US Coast Guard Barracks from WWII with artwork depicting the US Coast Guard
  • Maritime Education Center ship models and Spanish Watchtower replica
This photo shows the WRECKED! exhibit in the basement of the Keepers’ House where shipwreck artifacts are on view from a 1782 British loyalist shipwreck found in St. Augustine.

OTHER THINGS TO DO

  • Self-Guided St. Augustine Light Station Tour
  • View from the Top video (for those who don’t climb and those under 44 inches)
  • Behind the Scenes tour: on the hour from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM
  • Keepers’ House
  • Heritage Boatworks: Building on Florida’s Maritime Heritage
  • Northeast Florida Shrimping: Foundation of a Global Enterprise
  • Maritime Hammock Nature Trails & Scavenger Hunt
  • Archaeology Conservation Lab & viewing window 
  • Shipyard Playground
  • Hands-on children’s activities
  • Gift shop with Lighthouse & Maritime items

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

Interactive tablets help visitors learn about shipwrecks in the Keepers’ House.

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)

A model of the first St. Augustine Lighthouse (Spanish Watchtower) is located in the Maritime Education Center, along with ship models, a View from the Top video, and hands-on children’s activities.

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)  

PHOTOS: Must-see views along the Maritime Hammock Trail

MARITIME HAMMOCK STROLL! Here are some photos taken on Monday, July 23 on a stroll through the Maritime Hammock trails on the grounds of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. We also offer a Scavenger Hunt for all ages! Search for creatures that live in this coastal habitat and learn about medicinal and historic uses of plants …

 

Find FUN items perfect for SUMMER in our gift shop

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum‘s GIFT SHOP is a fun place to visit for summer items, with family-friendly options for kids of all ages.  Whether you are visiting with children or shopping for relatives out of town, see our suggestions below! Shop online here or call a store associate at 904-829-0745.

Our summer camp interns are busy reading Ghosts of St. Augustine by Tom Lapham and Breverton’s Nautical Curiosities by Terry Breverton.

Summer is the season for reading and the GIFT SHOP is filled with more than 30 books that cover many topics, from maritime history in St. Augustine to ghost stories. Our picks for summer reading are Ghosts of St. Augustine by Dave Lapham and Breverton’s Nautical Curiosities by Terry Breverton.

Our summer camper loved finding a home on the grounds of the Museum for these cute Seaside Squirters by Melissa & Doug. She is modeling wearing a Surfer & Sailor Knot bracelet and a Milk Silk Microfiber bandana.

Little ones will adore the four friends in the Seaside Sidekicks Squirters toy set by Melissa & Doug … a fish, a sea turtle, a crab, and an octopus! The bright blue and turquoise Surfer & Sailor Knot bracelet is a colorful and fun accessory created from durable cotton that is made to stand up to every day wear. The Milk Silk microfiber multi-use bandana features a nautical print and can be worn as a scarf or a headband.

Our summer camp intern shows off a “Loose Lips Might Sink Ships” WWII Coast Guard T-shirt in front of the 1941 Coastal Lookout Quarters.

There are more than a dozen T-shirt varieties in the GIFT SHOP, including the WWII Coast Guard Station shirt above.  Shop online here for shirts including one that features 7 Florida lighthouses.

Our summer intern checks out the ship model exhibit in the Maritime Education Center while wearing a Port Authority rain coat and a Milk Silk Microfiber bandana.

Perfect for those rainy summer days, the Port Authority rain coat with a U.S. Lighthouse Service patch is available in the store in this navy color or bright yellow.

We love showing off this summer camp Lighthouse drawing with magnets from the gift shop.

Turn your refrigerator into an art gallery with St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum magnets. There are about a dozen varieties in the GIFT SHOP including the four shown above. We especially like the carved wooden one that reads “I Conquered the 219 Stairs of the St. Augustine Lighthouse,” which is Made in the U.S.A.