At the top, the original, first order Fresnel lens still serves the beacon, but today is lit by a 1000-watt bulb, maintained by the Museum and volunteers. The St. Augustine lens consists of 370 hand-cut glass prisms arranged in a beehive shape, towering nine feet tall and six feet in diameter.
An anniversary celebration will take place on Saturday, October 13 from 11 A.M. to 3 P.M. featuring Meet-the-Lighthouse-Keeper photos, a cake cutting at 2 P.M., games on the front lawn, and self-guided tours of the historic tower and Museum exhibits.
The celebration will launch a year-long observation culminating with the 145th anniversary on October 15, 2019. Throughout the year, the Museum will host events designed to highlight the dramatic history of the lighthouse, its keepers and the local maritime history of the Nation’s oldest port.
“We invite the public to celebrate our 144th year in the 2nd lighthouse tower in St. Augustine. A lighthouse in a port is a symbol not only of coastal defense, but of economic growth, prosperity and sophistication,” said Kathy Fleming, Executive Director of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum.
“It would not be long after the birth of the Lighthouse that Henry Flagler would bring his grand hotels to town and begin to develop the St. Augustine we know and love today. We will celebrate all year long and in October of 2019 celebrate 145 years of light.”
The St. Augustine Lighthouse rises 165 feet above sea level and contains 219 steps that are climbed by visitors. The Lighthouse is St. Augustine’s oldest surviving brick structure, containing over 1.2 million Alabama bricks. The black and white stripes with a bright red lantern is distinctive to the lighthouse as its day mark and aid for navigation during the daylight hours.
Today the Museum uses admission and store sales, as well as memberships and donations, to protect the original restoration to the Department of the Interior standards. The non-profit, private Museum also provides educational services to the community, supports at-risk children and funds a maritime archaeology program that studies shipwrecks in the waters of the Nation’s Oldest Port.
In July 2002, the U.S. Coast Guard, through the National Park Service and the General Services Administration, transferred the deed for the tower to the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum, Inc., through the pilot program of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000. The Museum won a National Trust for Historic Preservation award in recognition of their work in helping to transfer historic lighthouses to non-profits for this law. In addition, the Coast Guard turned over the first-order, Fresnel lens to the Museum. The Museum now operates the site as a private-aid-to-navigation and literally keeps the light shining.
Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Admission is $12.95 for adults; $10.95 for seniors and children under 12; free for children less than 44 inches (unable to climb the tower). Resident and Membership packages also are available.
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, andtwitter.com/firstlighthouse