Scenic USA - Florida

Saint Augustine Lighthouse

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Saint Augustine Lighthouse

Photos by Ben Prepelka and Bob Goldman

     Recognized as one of North America's oldest cities, St Augustine is cloaked in a distinctive Spanish atmosphere. The historic district, St Augustine Lighthouse - Anastasia Island, Florida with streets paved in cobblestones, is lined with cafes, snack bars, unique shops and popular attractions.
     America's oldest city was also the place for the first lighthouse, built in 1737 by the Spanish. Giving way to the elements, the lighthouse was replaced in 1824. The replacement lighthouse was powered by oil lamps, set in silver reflectors, offering a modest beacon for maritime traffic. Enduring hurricanes, lightning strikes, hailstorms and even arson, the old 73 foot brick tower finally gave in to restless ocean tides. Shortly after the Civil War, lighthouse keepers noticed that the surf had slowly washed away the land around the lighthouse base. The suggested remedy was the construction of a new lighthouse.
     The new 161 foot structure, a country-wide endeavor, was built of Alabama brick, Georgia granite and topped with Pennsylvanian ironwork. Lit with a French Fresnel lens, the lighthouse was put into service in 1874. The exterior was painted in distinctive black and white spirals, echoing the day markings of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Although electricity reached the light station in 1936, it wasn't until 1971 that the light was automated. Without fulltime supervision, the Fresnel lens was vandalized, the keep's quarters were set ablaze and the St Augustine Lighthouse Staircase - Anastasia Island, Florida lens was temporarily replaced with an airport beacon.
     The Junior Service League was not around to save the original lighthouse from crashing into the sea, but accomplished a superb job of restoration on today's Saint Augustine Light Station. After a 14 year project, the lighthouse was reopened for public tours in 1994. The Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program serves as the lighthouse museum's research and conservation branch, exploring the coast for buried shipwrecks. Trails surround the seacoast hammock and views from the top of the lighthouse, including the oldest city coastline, are superb. Visitors will find that the climb is quite a workout, as 219 steps separate guests from this lofty perch.

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