In an annual celebration of the longtime bond between the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, Inc. and the Junior Service League (JSL) of St. Augustine, Inc., the Museum will host the annual Lighthouse Night Fest on Saturday, March 2 from 4 to 8 PM, in conjunction with the JSL’s Lighthouse 5K & Fun Run at the St. Augustine Light Station.
“We love working with the JSL on this community event,” said Kathy A. Fleming, executive director of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. “Night Fest is a celebration of the shared effort and the preservation of the lighthouse tower, the Keepers’ house and the relighting of the original Fresnel lens. The whole family can come out and enjoy free admission as we honor our parent organization and thank the community that helped them save this landmark.”
The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum will be open for free to all guests beginning at 4 p.m. Visitors are invited to explore and climb the 219 steps to the top of the Lighthouse for a sunset view. Children’s activities will be offered, and guests can tour shipwreck exhibits, the conservation lab, view boat building and walk the nature trail.
Funds raised through Night Fest and the Lighthouse 5K & Fun Run will help to continue to preserve the St. Augustine Light Station and keep the light shining.
According to the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, Inc., members of the Junior Service League of St. Augustine led a community effort to restore the St. Augustine Light Station between 1980 and 1995 after a fire gutted the 1876 lighthouse keepers’ house and left the grounds in disrepair. The U.S. Coast Guard sold the house to St. Johns County and separated the tower and home with a chain-linked fence.
“It was a safety hazard, and almost lost to history,” Fleming said. “The JSL turned back the bulldozers.”
Restoration on the Keepers’ House was completed in 1990 and a maritime museum opened by JSL volunteers. Tower restoration began shortly after, guided by expert and late Museum Director Cullen Chambers. That effort took four years. The JSL signed a lease with the Coast Guard for the tower, which until 2002 continued to keep the light shining, but turned over restoration and public access to the League. The JSL also worked to save the original first order 1874 Fresnel lens after a vandal’s bullet damaged it and removal was ordered by the Coast Guard.
The lens was re-lit during the first festival, called Community Day, in 1993. CNN covered the relighting and fireworks. The 145th anniversary of the historic lighthouse will be celebrated on Oct. 15, 2019.
The maritime museum separately incorporated from the JSL in 1998 at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum, but maintains a close and supportive relationship with its one-time parent organization. Today, the League supports many community projects.
In 2002 the Coast Guard gave the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum the lighthouse tower and the Fresnel lens through a new federal preservation law. Today, the museum team keeps the light shining.
For additional information, visit www.staugustinelighthouse.org.