Restoration Began in Late April and Ended in Early August
ST. AUGUSTINE, FL – The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum was awarded a $483,000 appropriation by the State of Florida in 2021 to restore and preserve the interior of its tower to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards. Restoration of the 1874 structure began on April 25, 2022, and was completed on August 12, 2022. The interior restoration project was made possible by the Department of State, Division of Historical Resources, and the State of Florida. These funds contributed to painting the inside of the tower and restoring its original metalwork.
Four cast-iron steps were completely replaced, three new cornice pieces made of stainless steel were added to the tower’s roof, and four damaged treads were rebuilt using cast iron and installed in late June. Rust blooms in the corners and seams of the landings and ceiling of the watch room were treated prior to applying new surface coating systems to prevent future corrosion. The paint system on the lantern requires four layers of special paint designed for water towers and costs $500.00 per gallon. Ensuring the integrity of the vent ball screens and unplugging the mesh from previous paint coatings allows for adequate ventilation to dry condensation inside the rotation and lens room.
Donations from friends of the Museum, the St. Augustine community, the Florida Lighthouse Association, and others funded the painting of the tower’s familiar black and white stripes and safety red top. While preventative maintenance is ongoing, on average, major tower restoration is needed every five to six years. The original restoration of the tower and Keepers’ House began in 1980 when 16 volunteers from the Junior Service League of St. Augustine turned back bulldozers from destroying the burned-out 1876 Keepers’ House. Many of those women are still involved with the Museum today as members of its Board of Trustees.
This is the most comprehensive restoration of the structure since the 1990s, encompassing all areas of the lighthouse, interior, and exterior, with every window and door restored. The work completed on the St. Augustine Lighthouse and its community impact will be felt for generations to come. The tower is a standard for lighthouses around the world, is a pillar in St. Augustine, a major tourist attraction and museum, and a beacon of hope to locals.
In addition to the tower itself, the Museum offers exhibits in several other buildings. “At
Home with the Harns” highlights the life of a lighthouse keeper’s family during Florida’s Gilded Age. “Wrecked!” presents artifacts from a Revolutionary War shipwreck excavated here in St. Augustine by the Museum’s maritime archaeologists. In the “Shrimpin’ Ain’t Easy” exhibit, visitors learn stories from the enterprising families that made St. Augustine the shrimping capital of the world in the mid-20th century. Find out how the St. Augustine community prepared for World War II in the “Guardians of the First Coast” exhibit. Learn how German submarines prowled our coast during Operation Drumbeat and local men and women answered the call to defend freedom abroad.
Other on-site activities include Heritage Boatworks, a volunteer program that preserves and keeps alive the wooden boatbuilding tradition which began in St. Augustine over 400 years ago, a conservation lab, and maritime hammock trails. Staff and volunteers provide guest engagement opportunities daily.
The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum has dedicated volunteers, staff, friends, and community members who have helped to preserve the historic buildings and further the mission of the Museum. “The tower, with its ever-changing vistas, provides visitors joy as they see the view for the first time. We take pride in our tower and count on private support to preserve the historic site. We appreciate the extreme generosity of the state of Florida and private donors who help keep the light shining for future generations to come,” said Doris Wiles, the Board of Trustees Chairperson.
About the St. Augustine & Maritime Museum:
A unique landmark of St. Augustine for over 147 years, the St. Augustine Light Station is host to centuries of the Nation’s Oldest Port® history and educational programs. Through interactive exhibits, guided tours, and maritime research, the 501(c)(3), non-profit St.
Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum 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. Today, the Museum keeps the light shining as a private aid-to-navigation. We are the parent organization to the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP), and together our two non-profits are an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.
About the American Alliance of Museums: The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum has achieved accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the highest national recognition afforded the nation’s museums. (www.aam-us.org)