Take a look inside of a local historic landmark as Metro Jacksonville Matt Hladik shares an upcoming event that will celebrate the restoration of the St. Augustine Lighthouse.
In St. Augustine on March 1st at the St. Augustine Lighthouse is the Lighthouse 5K and fun run followed by Night Fest. The Junior Service League of St. Augustine is organizing and putting on the 5K, while the lighthouse is hosting Night Fest. Night Fest is a post-race event for not only the runners but a celebration of the lighthouse’s history. As a sign of appreciation for the community there is no charge to get onto the lighthouse grounds or to climb the lighthouse itself. The particular occasion for these events? 2014 marks the 140th anniversary of the construction of the lighthouse itself, and March is the anniversary of the restoration of the antique first order Fresnel lens that allows the lighthouse to operate.
In 1986 a vandal fired a rifle at the lighthouse and shattered 19 of the prisms in the lens structure. In 1991 the United States Coast Guard shut down the lens to avoid further damaging it and replaced it with a more modern airport beacon. The Junior Service League stepped in however and started a fundraiser to restore the lens before the Coast Guard could permanently replace and remove it. At this point the JSL were already invested in the restoration of the lighthouse as they had been working on the keeper’s house which had gone through a devastating fire in 1970.
The JSL’s fundraising effort was successful and to this the St. Augustine Lighthouse retains its original first order Fresnel lens, and despite a section being new it still remains one of the 16 first order lenses that are still active in lighthouses in the United States. The St. Augustine Lighthouse now operates as a non-profit organization, it is no longer federally owned and is not a state park.
Night Fest is in honor of the anniversary of the restoration of the current lens that the still active lighthouse is using.
The festivity is not only a fundraiser event for the non-profit museum, but also connects the current organization maintaining the Lighthouse to the JSL. Without either of them the Lighthouse itself would not be operational.
Night Fest is from 4:00 PM to 9:00 PM on March 1st. It is a family friendly event that will include kids’ activities, refreshments, music, and guests are welcome to climb the lighthouse and see St. Augustine at night from the lighthouse’s 140 foot observation deck. Something to know for those bringing younger children is that to be able to climb the lighthouse itself children need to be at least 44 inches tall.
Article by Matt Hladik
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