On my last trip up to St. Augustine over Thanksgiving, we decided to take a tour of the St. Augustine Lighthouse. After all the food we ate, it seemed like a good idea as there were 219 steps. EXTREME AEROBICS!!! Yep, there they were spiraling ever upward. Did I tell you that I have a fear of heights? And the higher we went, the narrower the space. Oh, and did I tell you that I am claustrophobic? I know – lethal combination for what we endeavored to do. ( More about this later!) But we passed it all the time and there it stood high above the trees just beckoning. So it was after all a must see.
Just a little background on the historic lighthouse. It is actually the third one to be built in St. Augustine. If you would like to get more facts on the first two and to get more of the details of this lighthouse click here. Now this lighthouse, located at 81 Lighthouse Avenue off Anastasia Blvd (A1A), was built of bricks on a concrete base and construction lasted from 1871 to 1874. Initially, the keeper hauled a bucket of lamp fuel which was stored in the small room off to the right of the stairs near the entrance. The actual bucket was on display on one of the landings an it was really heavy – empty. I can hardly imaging toting it up those narrow, winding stairs with fuel. In 1909 lamp oil was replaced with kerosene and finally in 1936 it changed over to electric. The duties were eventually turned over to the US Coast Guard, replacing the keeper and it was fully automated in 1955.
In addition to the lighthouse itself there is also a lovely brick home that housed the keepers and their families. It is now set up as a museum with many artifacts of the time, photos, uniforms and general home decor typical of what would have been in use by the keeper and his family. Everyone had duties to perform- some related specifically to the lighthouse and some more of a housekeeping nature. The office of the keeper was actually at the entrance to the lighthouse, directly across from the fuel storage room. Here the keeper was required to keep careful records or logs, some of which are on display in the front hallway of the home/museum. For those who like to visit lighthouses and collect related nicknacks, there is a large store set up in the house as well.
One of the main reasons that folks would climb 219 stairs would be the view. Fortunately, along the way up and facing in all directions were a good many windows. Lucky for me and all other faint- hearted climbers. Digressing to my particular visit, I imagine I was quite the site going up those stairs. First I had to have Roberto in front of me and Jenn right behind me. (Never mind that Jenn had some height issues of her own.) Then there I was clinging to the handrails with both hands, literally blocking off the two way stairs. Heart pounding and deep breathing all the way, I made it to within the last 5 or so steps that led to the outside landing at the top. Jenn, Roberto, Jenn’s dad and step mother insured me that is was quite a site and that on a “clear day you could see forever”. Yada yada yada. While I really do enjoy the idea of lighthouses, and think they are historic and lovely to look at from afar, , I am still glad for the experience as far as I got. I loved the museum and reading all about it and I even felt pretty good about going up as far as I did, just to prove to myself that I could. I wish I could have gone the last step and braved the outside at the top. Maybe next time………………..