Denise Bomstein on Florida's St Augustine Lighthouse

South Eastern States

ST AUGUSTINE LIGHTHOUSE article courtesy of Denise Bomstein Wanna Get In Shape and Visit A Fascinating Historical Site at the Same Time? While my family was sight seeing the historic district of St. Augustine, we almost missed one of the most interesting attractions. My gift of gab' paid off when a local give us a tip, we should positively take the opportunity to visit Florida's oldest lighthouse. There is something special about a lighthouse. It brings forth thoughts of stormy nights, raging seas and heroic deeds. The inlet to colonial St. Augustine was treacherous. Called "crazy banks," the shifting sands were the dread of all that sailed there. Ships and lighthouses are irrevocably linked throughout history. A Little History Lesson Spanish settlers erected a wooden watchtower in the 16th century. Spain had control of the area for hundreds of years. Sentries warned of enemy vessels and guided supply ships through the shallow harbor. Through the years, the watchtower changed many hands, but continued to aid visiting ships and protect the nation's oldest port. Eventually, the wooden structure eroded and collapsed into the ocean. In 1874 the current lighthouse was constructed from Alabama brick and Philadelphia iron, can you get more American? A brick light keeper's house was built and families lived and worked on the site until 1955. After the keeper's house was destroyed by fire, the site became a community service project of the Junior League of St. Augustine. They have spent over a million dollars to restore the tower to its Victorian splendor. No two lighthouses are alike. All have distinguishing daymarks and nightmarks for mariners to establish their locations. The St. Augustine tower rise 165 feet about sea level. The daymarks are a red lantern and bold black and white stripes. The nightmark is a short white flash of light every 30 seconds. This lighthouse is still an active aid to navigation. Enough of that. What It's Like To Be A Tower Climber Or Why Did I Ever Stop Exercising? We started tower climbing the 219 cast iron steps together, as a family...the way it should be. Naturally, my children had no problem ascending the eight flights. Soon, Jessica (18) and Jason (13) were light years ahead of us as my husband, Moritz and I realized the Junior League has sorely miscalculated, the 219 steps is in reality 2190. "Are you okay, Mom and Dad?" came echoing down the tower. "Don't worry, we'll catch up by the next millennium," I echoed back. The tower is a great place to socialize. Halfway up we met other climbers that were as much out of shape as we were. It was fun complaining with strangers. Some never make it to the top but enjoy the view from small windows. Not us...never say die! Moritz and I continued climbing as we held onto the handrails for an extra boost forward, pitiful. "Mom, this is good for your calves and thighs," Jessica shouted encouragement. My kids never know when to shut up. Huffing and puffing, with red faces and thighs burning we finally made it to the top. Was It Worth It? Positively!
The breathtaking view (literally) panoramic view of St. Augustine and the beaches is spectacular. You did bring your camera, didn't you? Enjoy the ocean breeze as you gaze at the beautiful landscape, but don't forget to look up. A Fresnal lens at the top of the tower consists of 370 hand cut prisms arranged in a beehive shape 12 feet tall and six feet in diameter. Designed by a French scientist the lens still turns, and its beam can be seen for miles. Time to descend, I searched for an elevator but couldn't find one. However, the trip down is easier than the one up. Explore The Light Keeper's House Many interesting artifacts are on display, as you walk through the house--uniforms, archaeological finds, household good, antique furniture, lighthouse tools and more. The museum offers hands on programs, and interactive CD's reveal the story of keeper's lives. The museum's installation of a professionally designed exhibit call "Living and Working A Lighthouse" is engaging. "The men, women and children who lived at the light station are really the heart and soul of the place,''said Kathy Fleming, Executive Director. The Lighthouse and Museum host special events throughout the year. A variety of educational programs is offered for students. The lighthouse, located on Anastasia Island is a five-minute drive from St. Augustine's historic district. E-mail: lighthouse@staug.com or call 904-829-0745 for more information. Who knew exercising your body and mind could be so fascinating?

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