Tag Archives: St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum

Frequently Asked Questions by Lighthouse Visitors

Before You Visit

Q. Can I climb the lighthouse?

A. Yes, weather permitting, you can walk out on the observation deck and look into the lens room. For their safety, children must be at least 44 inches tall to climb.

Q. Are there any restrictions to climbing?

A. You must be at least 44 inches tall to go up to the top of the lighthouse. Children who are not tall enough to climb get in free, and one adult with them gets in half off. Carrying children in the tower is prohibited, and all climbers must do so on their own power.

Q. How tall is the lighthouse?

A. The top of the lighthouse is 165 feet above sea level.

Q. How many steps are there?

A. There are 219 steps to reach the observation deck. There are also eight landings, one with a bench, where visitors can rest and let other people pass.

Q. What is there to do besides climb the lighthouse?

A. We have a children’s play area and puppet theater for those too short to climb, and there are exhibits in four historic structures and the new Maritime Center, many of which are hands on and interactive. We also have a boatbuilding program and schedule of Daily Demos that cover boatbuilding, historic sailing and navigation, underwater archaeology and lighthouse history.

Q. Can you see through the stairs?

A. Yes. However, there are railings conveniently located on both sides.

Q. Does the lighthouse have an elevator?

A. No, the lighthouse is an historic structure, completed in 1874.

Q. Is the site handicap accessible?

A. Yes. An alternative short entrance path is available from the handicapped parking to the grounds. Staff will open the gate upon request. A ramp provides access to the ground floor of the Keepers’ House, containing exhibits. Other exhibits, including the PGA Artifact Conservation Lab Viewing Hallway, in the Maritime Education Center are also wheelchair accessible, and there is a video, “A View from the Top” so those unable to climb can see the view. However, the light station is an historic site and certain areas are accessible only by stairs. Upon request staff will open the emergency exit door to access the basement, a six-step stairway alternative to the spiral staircase inside the dwelling. Stairs lead up to the second floor of the keepers’ house. The office and storage room at the base of the tower are accessed by five steps equipped with handrails. The base of the lighthouse is reached by an additional twelve granite steps with handrails. A large print self-guided walking tour is available at the welcome counter in the Visitors’ Center.

Q. Can I climb in the rain?

A. Yes, unless there is thunder or lightning, you are able to climb the tower in the rain. The observation deck will be closed if it gets too wet or if rain is coming in the access door. There is no climbing when thunder and lightning are observed in the area.

Q. Does it ever get too windy to go to the top?

A. When wind speeds at the top of the tower exceed 30 mph, children are restricted from going out on the observation deck. When wind speeds reach 40 mph or greater, access to the observation deck is off limits to all climbers.

Fun Facts and Information

Q. When was the lighthouse built?

A. The St. Augustine Lighthouse was built between 1871 and 1874. It took three years to build due to lack of manpower and funds. It was first lit October 15, 1874.

The first St. Augustine Lighthouse, called the Old Spanish Watchtower, fell into the ocean in 1880.

Q. Why is the lighthouse so far from the coast?

A. The first St. Augustine Lighthouse was approximately 500 yards northeast of the current Lighthouse and fell into the ocean in 1880. The current location was selected due to its relatively high elevation atop of an old beach dune.

Q. Does the St. Augustine Lighthouse still come on at night?

A. Yes, it is a privately-owned active aid to navigation. The nonprofit St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum owns and maintains the lighthouse and other historic structures on the grounds.

Q. What were the rooms at the base of the tower used for?

A. The north room, on the right when you are looking at the tower, was used to store the lard oil that fueled the light in the late 19th century. To the left, or south of, the entrance was the lighthouse keepers’ office, where they maintained detailed records of equipment, repairs, maintenance and watch logs.

Q. Is that the original Keepers’ House?

A. Yes, it is the original Keepers’ House. After being gutted by fire in the 1970s, the Junior Service League of St. Augustine restore the structure and opened a museum. The house and lighthouse tower are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Q. Why is the Keepers’ House so big?

A. St. Augustine had up to three lighthouse keepers and their families that lived in the home. It was arranged as a duplex, with the Head Keepers’ family on the north side, the 1st Assistant Keeper on the south side, and a single room for the 2nd Assistant Keeper, who was usually unmarried. So while it is a big home, it housed up to 15 people at any given time!

Q. What are the other historic buildings?

A. The Tin Pickle, Local Gedunk WWII-themed eatery, is located in a building first constructed as a garage for the keepers in 1936. As part of the coastal response to WWII, it was converted into a garage to maintain jeeps that worked on the U.S. Navy Beach Patrol that looked for German U-boats and other threatening activity off the coast. The other small white building directly north of the keepers’ house was built in 1941-42 to house additional U.S. Coast Guardsmen that ensured a 24-hour lookout from the top of the lighthouse.

Q. What is Maritime Archaeology?

A. Learn more about this here.

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)