Tuesday, November 10, 2015

St. Augustine Lighthouse

One of the highlights of a visit to St. Augustine is a trip to its iconic lighthouse. St. Augustine is the oldest continuously working port in the United States, dating back to its settlement in 1565. There has been some form of light house since that time. In the 1500's the wooden watchtower served as a beacon for sailors.

 In 1824 the American Territorial government commissioned the building of first lighthouse at St. Augustine. It was a structure built from coquina stone - a strong limestone quarried in the area. Coquina is a sedimentary rock comprised of sea shells that have been cemented together over time. 

Original St. Augustine Lighthouse - http://sar-cdn.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/superphoto/13832447.jpg
 The lighthouse was built very close to the beach and by 1870 was threatened by erosion. So the U.S. government again had a new lighthouse built, much further from the shoreline. This time the building was mad from brick and cast iron. Today, the St. Augustine lighthouse is the oldest brick building in the city.

The lighthouse is built on a Maritime Hammock, a large sand dune that has been over grown by plant life. The plants help stabilize the dune and have become a beautiful park to walk through. 

Trees in the Hammock

Live oak in the Hammock

The St. Augustine Lighthouse is surrounded by several support buildings. At its base is the oil house, where oil for the original light was stored. Across a small lawn is the Keeper's house where the lighthouse keeper and his family lived.

Oil house at the base of the lighthouse

Keeper's House

Oil House
The Lighthouse is 169 feet tall, and you have to climb 219 steps to get to the observation platform. But once you get to the top the view is amazing. Since Florida is basically a flat state, you can see for many miles from the top of the lighthouse.

It is a long way up to the top

Looking back to St. Augustine
The St. Augustine Lighthouse runs a very extensive restoration program. They are building boats by hand, and working on sunken finds. Below is a cannon that has been taken from a wreck. They are using electrolysis to clean off the corrosion that has accumulated over the centuries.

Getting There:

The lighthouse sits on a barrier island between the Metanzas River and the Salt Run. Take Route A1A south from downtown St. Augustine. Cross the Lion Bridge. Look for signs, the lighthouse will be on your left about 2 miles after the bridge.

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