About Us

The St. Augustine Lighthouse is dedicated to discovering, preserving, presenting and keeping alive the story of nation's oldest port. We do this in many ways:

  • Educational opportunities
  • Local and national preservation efforts
  • Maritime archaeological research
  • Safeguarding the memories and precious belongings of those that came before us.

On-Going Preservation

This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the effort to save the lighthouse. The Keepers' House was the target of arson and had fallen into disrepair when the Junior Service League adopted the project. As a result of this successful preservation effort, the St. Augustine Lighthouse has become a model for other lighthouses nationwide. Lighthouse staff is now recognized as national experts in restoration and museum operations. So much so that the lighthouse has been sought after to develop and facilitate conferences and to mentor museums nationwide.

The St. Augustine Lighthouse lobbies for national preservation issues in Tallahassee and on Capitol Hill. We proudly work directly with government agencies to insure that America's castles survive for generations to come.

Preserving the Past for Future Generations

The lighthouse stores a vast collection of WWII artifacts including thousands of pictures (some were saved from being sent to the dumpster). The lighthouse also has an oral history library in its permanent collection that continues to grow.

Among our efforts is a desire to grow our entire collection. We are an official partner of the Library of Congress' Veteran's History Project.

  • Through our Maritime Memory Project, we are expanding our knowledge of WWII military service in the waters of the first coast.
  • We are actively seeking local stories to share about this great time in the First Coast's history.

LAMP

Through our research arm, we study, investigate, preserve and interpret the waters of St. Augustine and Northeast Florida. There are over 270 known shipwrecks off of the coast of St. Augustine and its surrounding waters. We are working to uncover these wrecks in order to strengthen our knowledge of the nation's oldest port. We work to preserve the artifacts brought up from these wrecks in order to tell their stories. These waters are submerged cultural resources for our country.

Our Work with Young People

LAMP was instrumental in developing the first underwater archaeology program to enter a public school system. We work with local high schools to put students in the water with marine archaeologists. We introduce over 54,000 school age children to the marine sciences and maritime history through:

  • Summer camps
  • Home-school days
  • Hands-on tours
  • Program scholarships for disadvantaged youth

We are changing the lives of high school and college students through:

  • Internships
  • Encouraging scholarly investigations
  • Influencing career choices

Our Mission: To discover, preserve, present and keep alive the story of the nation's oldest port, as symbolized by our working St. Augustine Lighthouse.

Our Vision

To be the finest light station and maritime museum.

Message from the Director:

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum is more than just a simple light station. As we keep the light burning we also reach back across the centuries to discover and present to you stories of our earliest connections to the sea. Maritime history was influential to the birth of our nation and our light station has been witness to the unfolding events.

A Spanish light existed here in the 16th century not only to guide ships into port, but also to protect the first coast in time of armed conflict. It existed specifically to defend this spot along the Caribbean trade routes from potential settlement by the French. An active aid-to-navigation manned with a soldier and signal fire was a defensive component central to growth and security in virtually every port in the new world. Nowhere was an aid-to- navigation erected and permanently kept in place earlier than in St. Augustine.

A Spanish tower was at St. Augustine when William Shakespeare wrote Hamlet. The first watchtowers were here when Halley’s Comet was discovered in 1682 and when the Castillo de San Marcos was built from 1672 and 1696. In 1737, the wooden towers were fortified and replaced with coquina (shell rock). This new compound included a housing area, storage facilities and an outer wall. Florida’s first official lighthouse was re-lit, this time officially by the United States Congress, in 1824 on this site. The current tower followed it in 1874, as the old Spanish watch tower fell into the sea a few years later, a victim of erosion.

Over the years, the beacon at St. Augustine was the traffic light for a maritime highway that welcomed schooners, steamers and messenger vessels from every major European power. Some ships held building materials, others brought artificers, soldiers or goods for trade. As the light shone here, the first free African American settlement in Florida, and our nation, was established as Fort Mose. Our port bustled with former slave trading ships and privateers. The light was darkened during the American Civil War and the lens hidden to block Union supply lines. Two lighthouse towers stood and were recorded in drawings made by Native Americans imprisoned at the Fort Marion during the 19th century. The coming of Henry Flagler’s railroads and grand hotels changed the importance of the lighthouse for commerce but did not reduce its military function. During World War II, armed guards were stationed here as German submarines prowled the coast. Later, the local shrimp boats depended on the lighthouse for safety as the city grew. Tourists have been attracted to our light since the 19th century, and today we serve over 185,000 a year.

Today our museum is alive with stories of remarkable achievement. One of our most important goals is offering programs of value and meaning to our community. We make a difference by gathering, safekeeping and sharing the stories about our continuing connection to the sea. We literally keep the front porch light for St. Augustine shining. We preserve, protect and keep alive the history of our nation’s oldest port city.

We hope you will join with us as we engage in the many different programs offered for children and adults. Through maritime programs we build knowledge and self- esteem for young people and offer opportunities to explore careers in the marine sciences. We help preserve lighthouses nationwide by sharing the remarkable story of a small group of community volunteers who saved our light station a quarter of a century ago. Join us as we remember the struggle and sacrifice of our veterans who gave their lives to defend our nation. Dive with us under the sea as we send museum archaeologists to explore a collection of shipwrecks rich in the multi-cultural history of our young country. Climb 219 steps to experience with us a remarkable and inspiring view of the old city from atop the tower. Our museum serves and belongs to our expanding community. We are growing and doing more every day. Please visit us often and enjoy all we have to offer.

Cordially,

 

Kathy Fleming
Executive Director

Our History: A Spanish watchtower, built in the late 1500's was the predecessor of the present St. Augustine Lighthouse. St Augustine is the site of the oldest aid to navigation in North America. The original watchtower became Florida's first lighthouse in 1824. However, by 1870, the tower was threatened by shoreline erosion and construction began on the current lighthouse. The new tower was completed in 1874. The old tower succumbed to the sea during a storm in 1880.

Constructed of Alabama brick and Philadelphia iron, the lighthouse is St. Augustine's oldest surviving brick structure. In 1876, a brick light keeper's house was added to the site. Light keepers' and their assistants lived and worked there until the tower was automated in 1955.

The St. Augustine Lighthouse rises 165 feet above sea level and contains 219 steps. At the top, a first order Fresnel lens serves the beacon. The St. Augustine lens consists of 370 hand-cut glass prisms arranged in a beehive shape towering twelve feet tall and six feet in diameter.

In 1980, the Junior Service League of St. Augustine, Inc. began a fifteen-year campaign to restore the Keepers’ House that was destroyed by fire in 1970 and the tower. The house was opened to the public as a museum in 1988. In 1993, the tower was also opened to visitors on a daily basis.

In July 2002, the U.S. Coast Guard, through 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. In addition, the Coast Guard turned over the first order Fresnel lens to the museum.

Corporate and Business Partnership Program

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum Inc. is a non-profit 501 (C3). Our mission is to discover, preserve, present and keep alive the story of the nation’s oldest port, as symbolized by our working St. Augustine lighthouse.

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum is a national treasure. The Museum keeps alive the story of the nation’s oldest port and presents our working Lighthouse as a model for lighthouse preservation and restoration nationwide.

We are a not-for-profit organization that gives back to the community in the most significant ways. From this site, we explore historical research, marine archaeology and oral history. Vital research is matched with sensitivity to preservation and care for the collection and artifacts entrusted to our care. Research and preservation are the foundation on which we develop our educational programs that enrich the lives of more than 54,000 school-age children each year.

As early as 1585, one of our nation’s earliest navigational light towers guided sailors into the harbor. Now, the famed Fresnel lens, the first of its kind restored in the United States, guides those at sea and is a beacon for those who understand the rich and dramatic history that surrounds lighthouses across America.

Through diverse educational and public programs we are poised to grow into one of Florida’s premiere attractions as well as a dynamic institution that honors the public trust through offerings of educational programs and pursuit of scholarly work.

  • Marine archaeologists open the doors to the wonders of science, math and history by diving with talented high school students.
  • Preserving the treasured belongings of those who came before us.
  • Telling the story of World War II in the nation’s oldest port city.
  • Keeping alive the stories of men and women who sacrificed to protect our great nation.
  • Bringing century-old shipwrecks to life and telling the tales of America’s earliest people.

In 1980 the Junior Service League recognized the value of the lighthouse as community icon. Their restoration project was one of the first in the U.S. Today, the Lighthouse & Museum stands as a symbol of what determined community minded women can achieve. The St. Augustine Lighthouse has become a symbol of community and national pride. Our challenge is to build on this important legacy as we continue to build a mission-centered and value-laden organization that preserves our nation’s earliest maritime history for future generations.

Business and corporate support is the key to the continuation of our efforts. Charitable giving, sponsorship and naming opportunities are available. Please contact the development department at 904-829-0745 or stauglh@aug.com for further information.

 

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