Tag Archives: Lighthouse History

The Lamp Changer

Did you know that the Lighthouse can change its own lightbulb? Well, it can and has been doing so for many years now. In 1936, electricity was first brought to the Lighthouse. This meant significant changes for the Lighthouse keepers since they no longer had to carry buckets of kerosene to the top of the lighthouse to burn in the lamp to create the light. Now light bulbs did the work of producing the light! But the keepers still had to stay up all night to make certain that the light bulb didn’t burn out, and that if it did, they were there to replace it.

Carlisle & Finch Lamp Changer in place in the Lighthouse lens room.

Years later, an innovative company in Cincinnati, Ohio came up with an answer to help make life easier for lighthouse keepers – a lamp changer for lighthouses! The Carlisle & Finch Company, the “Global Leader in Spotlight Technology,” specializes in the production of high quality optical products for a range of maritime uses, including within the United States Coast Guard and Navy.

Our lamp changer holds two, 1000-watt bulbs. The one in the center, or primary position (the large bulb on the left), is the operational bulb. The one to the right is in the backup position. If the primary bulb burns out, the electrical circuit is broken, releasing a switch. A spring at the base of the bulb’s housing piece then rotates the backup bulb to the primary position, where it snaps into place and completes the circuit. The backup bulb comes on automatically.

Here, I am holding the lamp (bulb) in the halfway position.

Did you notice that the bulbs look very different? The larger bulb is an historic 1000-watt GE bulb that is no longer made. The smaller bulb is the replacement that GE came out with a few years ago; it is also a 1000-watt bulb. The smaller bulb sits upon a ceramic block that serves two purposes: it dissipates heat so that the bulb lasts longer, and it places the filament at the same height as the older bulbs so that the focal plane of the light shines correctly through the lens. The old bulbs are so old (some dating to WWII) that we don’t know how long they will last, so we always put a new bulb in the backup position. If we used two old bulbs, they might both burn out on the same night, which as St. Augustine’s navigation beacon, would become a crisis situation. We only have a certain number of the old bulbs left, and once they are gone, it will be the end of an era. Our Lighthouse will then have two of the new bulbs in place, and thankfully, if the bulb changer ever wears out, the Carlisle & Finch Company is still in business to help us replace it.

Contributed by Director of Museum Services Rick Cain, edited by Student Intern Jayda Barnes

Enlightened: Episode 1, Part 2

Did you know the U.S. Lighthouse Service initially declined the use of Fresnel lenses?

In part two of our first episode of Enlightened! (click here if you haven’t seen it yet!), find out why the federal government refused to utilize these revolutionary new lenses even after they were adopted throughout much of Europe.

Enlightened! is a St. Augustine Lighthouse educational program designed to serve our mission to discover, preserve, present and keep alive the stories of our Nation’s Oldest Port as symbolized by our working St. Augustine Lighthouse.

Conservators Puzzle a Concrete Mystery

While waiting for the new conservation building to begin construction, the staff has been cleaning up around the old and new work sites. In the process, Starr found something pretty interesting. She was sweeping up in front of the World War 2 era garage and noticed a number of markings in the concrete.

The markings are all last names and dates they were written in the concrete. So far we can read: Muller, Warren, French and Cox. The Cox may be a Coast Guard designation, however, and not a last name as it shows up in multiple places. The dates are all 1944, with March 15 and March 17 in two different spots. This all leads us to believe that the concrete outside of the garage was poured during the war effort, either to fix or replace what was there before. This also leads us to believe that some things never change and the chance to write your name in wet concrete is too tempting to pass up.

"French" inscription.
“French” inscription.
"Muller" inscription.
“Muller” inscription.
"Warren" inscription.
“Warren” inscription.
Unreadable inscription.
Unreadable inscription.

We had earlier found a similar marking in the concrete in front of the barracks, as well.

Barracks inscription.
Barracks inscription.

The first thing we did with the barracks inscription was to mark the edges so that staff and visitors would avoid walking on it.

Next, Starr made a dam around the markings and poured silicone rubber over the top. Once the rubber cured, she had a mold of the inscription, just in case something happened to the original. Continue reading

We’re Still Here: Hurricanes
and St. Augustine

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 windowsMuseum, 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