Tag Archives: St. Augustine

229th US Coast Guard Birthday celebrated Aug. 4, 2019

Established on August 4, 1790, the U.S. Coast Guard has kept the nation’s waterways safe, playing a critical role in national security. Every year, August 4 is celebrated as the U.S. Coast Guard Birthday, commemorating the military organization for its valor and discipline.

Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, founded the Revenue Marine — which later became the U.S. Coast Guard.

A US Coast Guard retired fog bell in front of the 1876 Keepers’ House at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum.

The Coast Guard is one of America’s five armed forces and traces its founding to Aug. 4, 1790, when the first Congress authorized the construction of 10 vessels to enforce tariff and trade laws, prevent smuggling, and protect the collection of federal revenue. Responsibilities added over the years included humanitarian duties such as aiding mariners in distress.

The service received its present name in 1915 when the Revenue Cutter Service merged with the U.S. Life-Saving Service to form a single maritime service dedicated to the safety of life at sea and enforcing the nation’s maritime laws.

The Coast Guard is a multi-mission, maritime, military service and the smallest of the five Armed Services. Its mission is to protect the public, the environment and U.S. economic interests in the nation’s waterways, along the coast, on international waters, or in any maritime region as required to support national security.

US Coast Guard coasties are shown at the St. Augustine Light Station in front of the Coastal Lookout Quarters in the 1940s during World War II.

1940-1945

A Coastal Lookout Building was constructed at the St. Augustine Light Station in late 1941-early 1942 after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. However, life had not changed dramatically on the East Coast. Americans still felt a sense of separation the war. The sinking of the SS Gulf America off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida in April 1942 changed that feeling. Candlepower in the lighthouse was reduced. Blackout curtains were required in every home, and cars drove without headlights. The war was close by.

A US Coast Guard Training Center was created in St. Augustine, Florida during World War II, based out of Flagler College (formerly the Ponce de Leon Hotel). IN THE PHOTO: Coasties are shown at the Castillo de San Marcos (fort) during a training exercise.

U-Boat 123, Korvettsenkapitan Reinhard Hardegen was on his second patrol to the Americas. The mission was to interrupt British supply lines and demoralize everyday citizens. On his first journey, he sailed into the harbor of NYC and looked out at the American shoreline. Now, Hardegen prowled the St. Johns County and Duval County coast before finding a target for his torpedoes.

He mentioned “the slender lighthouse” in his logbook, and noted how clearly the coast could be seen without binoculars. The explosion of the SS Gulf America could be seen for miles. Eyewitnesses rushed to the beach to watch as Hardegan surfaced his U-boat between the tanker and the shore and fired on the vessel to finish it off. Despite being hit by depth charges, U-123 managed to escape and limped back to Germany.

US Coast Guard coasties at the training center at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida during World War II.

Not long after in June 1942 German spies from Operation Pastorius choose Ponte Vedra (and New York) as landing sites. A submarine surfaced in view of the shore and four men disembarked, buried explosives, and caught a bus to Jacksonville. At least one of them spoke perfect English. The FBI learned of the operation when one of the NYC team became nervous and reported the others. Buried on Ponte Vedra beach were blocks of TNT molded as soap for the laundry, a “pen” that could start fires, and a detonation device. The four spies from Ponte Vedra were executed within weeks of landing.

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) Women’s Reserve, known as SPARS, was the World War II branch of the USCG Reserve. It was established by the United States Congress and signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on November 23, 1942. IN THE PHOTO: SPARS at the training center in St. Augustine, Florida, taken in May 1944.

The U.S. Navy and Coast Guard responded with beach patrols using Jeeps, horses and guard dogs. Armed guards were stationed at St. Augustine Lighthouse to watch the sea 24 hours a day. The passing of each friendly ship was marked with a board and a string. Coordinates were radioed to U.S. Naval Headquarters at Government House, and the next watch station was alerted. The men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard, trained at St. Augustine’s Flagler College and all over St. Johns County for service around the world.

Thousands of veterans’ artifacts are preserved in collections at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. More details at www.staugustinelighthouse.org/explore-learn/collections-conservation/

Visitors honor their loved ones in the US Coast Guard or other military branches with engraved bricks, which support the nonprofit Museum and help preserve the rich past of the St. Augustine Light Station. Find out about bricks and naming opportunities here: staugustinelighthouse.org/get-involved/museum-difference-makers/bricks-naming-opportunities/

St. Augustine Brewers Festival donates $9,400 to the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum

Organizers of the inaugural St. Augustine Brewers’ Festival presented a donation of $9,421.27 to the nonprofit St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. The event was held on Saturday, May 11 at the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park.  In addition to the donation to the lighthouse, Brewers’ Fest organizers also donated $1,000 to Keepers of the Coast, which provided a water refill station during the event.

“We are thrilled to be selected as a beneficiary of the first ever St. Augustine Brewers’ Festival. Everything we do at the Museum saves our maritime past,” said Kathy Fleming, Executive Director of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum.

The event included craft beer tastings by 26 local and regional breweries. Merchandise was created by Skinny Lizard T-shirt Printers. Leonard’s Photography provided a fun photo booth for guests.  

Live music included performances by bands Lonesome Bert & The Skinny Lizards, Paco Lipp, Brett Bass and the Melted Plectrum, and headliner Fire Tire. Bicycle racks and a Bike Valet were be provided by VeloFest.

“We we’re thrilled with the community support and success of the event. We are looking forward to even more success in year two and launching our new not-for-profit Brewing a Community,” said Courtney Murr, a team member and organizer of the St. Augustine Brewers’ Festival.

Food trucks and vendors included Wingin’ It Food Truck, Auntie Anne’s, Weenie Panini, The Hyppo Gourmet Ice Pops, and Moon Booch Kombucha.

St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum volunteers worked tirelessly during the event and were willing to help in any capacity,” said Miranda Bailey, Volunteer & Event Manager at the Museum. “I was very proud of the support they provided during the day. They were a big reason that the event was such a success!”

More than 37 volunteers arrived early to help with set-up and stayed throughout the day to help with a variety of tasks. During the day, volunteers assisted in the VIP, parking lot and VeloFest valet bicycle areas. They also provided support for ticketing and the kid’s zone, while others kept the breweries stocked with ice throughout the day.

Sponsors of this event include the St. Augustine Distillery, Skinny Lizard Printing, Courtyard by Marriott, Fairfield by Marriott, Eye Center of St. Augustine, Bozard Ford, Leonard’s, Old Town Trolley Tours, Hornski’s Vinyl Lounge, Mojo Old City BBQ, Mangrove Surf Shop, The Spice & Tea Exchange, The Kookaburra Coffee, and A Frame Sauce Company.

Stay updated at stabrewersfest.com for details about the 2020 St. Augustine Brewers’ Fest.

ABOUT THE ST. AUGUSTINE LIGHTHOUSE & MARITIME MUSEUM:

A defensive and navigation tool and landmark of St. Augustine for 145 years, the St. Augustine Light Station watches over the waters of the Nation’s Oldest Port®. Through interactive exhibits, guided tours and maritime research, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, Inc. 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)   

June 6, 2019: St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum to commemorate 75th anniversary of D-Day

ST. AUGUSTINE, FL – The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum will commemorate the 75th Anniversary of D-Day on Thursday, June 6, 2019 with special programs honoring our military. The ongoing programming will take place from 10 AM to 6 PM, with free admission for veterans and active U.S. military on this day.

The Museum will display “Field of Honor” signs on the front lawn of the Keepers’ House honoring friends and loved ones who have served. Donation is $50 per sign. To honor your loved one, order your sign online below, or please contact Tresa Calfee at tcalfee@staugustinelighthouse.org or call 904-829-0745, ext. 212.

ORDER SIGN HERE

Donations will go toward our upcoming permanent WWII exhibit, which will include items that relate to St. Augustine during World War II. The exhibit will display some of the 2,000 items currently housed in the Museum’s collection.

“Our collection primarily relates to United States Coast Guard (USCG), including the Women’s Reserve known as SPARS, with material specifically related to the people that trained or were stationed at the USCG centers in St. Augustine,” explains Jason Titcomb, Chief Curator at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum.  “The breadth of the historic materials include military uniforms and accessories, military equipment, USCG training material, local USCG newspapers publications and primary source documents specific to the St. Augustine Lighthouse while it served as a coastal lookout for national defense.”

The collection also contains oral histories and photographs belonging to military personnel and residents in St. Augustine and North Florida region.  These photographs and personal accounts bring to life the significance that the community played during World War II.

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is conducting an oral history project focusing on the legacy of Northeast Florida during World War II. Our mission is to preserve these stories for future generations. We are looking to hear from anyone who served in the war, lived in the area during the war, or have relatives whose stories you would be willing to share. If interested please contact Jay Smith at jsmith@staugustinelighthouse.org or call 904-829-0745 ext. 240 for more information.

The Tin Pickle Local Gedunk will serve food throughout the day. A gedunk is a canteen or snack bar aboard a large vessel of the U.S. Navy. This WWII-themed eatery features baked goods, specialty hot dogs and sandwiches, snacks, house-made fudge, sangria and locally brewed beer. 

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 defensive and navigation tool and landmark of St. Augustine for 145 years, the St. Augustine Light Station watches over the waters of the Nation’s Oldest Port®. Through interactive exhibits, guided tours and maritime research, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, Inc. 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) 

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 St. Augustine Lighthouse is 165 feet tall.

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 in the Visitor’s 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. Click here to learn more about our Lighthouse Maritime Archaeology Program.

St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum welcomes Cultural Heritage team from Spain

From left: John Regan, St. Augustine City Manager; Manuel de la Cruz, Edriel Intelligence; Carlos Leon Amores, General Subdirectorate of Historical Heritage of the Ministry of Culture for the Nation of Spain; Kathy Fleming, Executive Director of St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum; Francisco Sanchez-Guitard, Edriel Intelligence and member of a Spanish boat building family; Leanna Freeman, Vice Mayor City of St. Augustine; John Valdes, City Commissioner, City of St. Augustine; Irving Kass, Owner of Saint George Inn and Board of Trustees Treasurer at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum; and Chuck Meide, Director of Archaeology at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum.

St. Augustine, FL –The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum welcomed a Cultural Heritage team from Spain on Thursday, April 25 at the nonprofit Museum.

Honored guests from Spain included Carlos Leon Amores, Independent consultant for the ministery General Subdirectorate of Historical Heritage of the Ministry of Culture for the Nation of Spain; Manuel de la Cruz from Malaga, Spain and Francisco Sanchez-Guitard of Edriel Intelligence. Sanchez-Guitard is also a member of a Spanish boatbuilding family.

The City of St. Augustine officials were present at the event, with Vice Mayor Leanna Freeman presenting gold coins with the City seal to the Spanish team. Commissioner John Valdes attended as well as City Manager, John Regan. Irving Kass of the St. George Inn kicked off the entire event as the Museum’s Board Treasurer presenting a copy of the PBS video of the story of St. Augustine from the University of Florida Historic St. Augustine.

A gold coin with the City of St. Augustine seal was presented to visiting Spanish guests.

Sanchez-Guitard has a vision shared by the Museum – to make the St. Augustine area a maritime hub of learning, connecting the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum to the  Fountain of Youth, the settlement site of Pedro Menendez de Aviles, and scholars worldwide. This work is echoed by historian Dr. Michael Francis in his La Florida project, revealing Florida history through a digital archive of Spanish heritage in the Americas. Francis and his students are chronicling the lives and culture of those that traveled with Menendez. Please see www.laflorida.org for more information.

Carlos Leon Amores has released the first inventory of Spanish shipwrecks in America (between 1492 and 1898) with more than 600 Spanish shipwrecks on the list. The catalog of Spanish Cultural Heritage is part of the National Plan for the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage developed by Spain, under the principles of the UNESCO convention and funded in part through a partnership with NOAA. Amores’ list does not yet include shipwrecks in the First Coast region. The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum’s research arm, the St. Augustine Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program, seeks to become the first archaeological nonprofit to help with this important work and to add the nation’s oldest port to this international database.

“Our Museum’s shared objective with scholars from all over the world is not so much to raise these ships from the ocean floor, but to preserve the information that they hold and to protect them from looting and pillaging, said Kathy Fleming, Executive Director of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum.

“Instead we seek to tell their hidden stories, and reveal our worldwide connections to each other.”

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