Friday, September 10, 2010

Comparison shopping: St. Augustine or the Key West lighthouse?

St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum
As I've mentioned, I used to be afraid of heights so at one time it might have been hard for me to enjoy the magnificent views that one sees from the observation deck of either of the lighthouses you will see here.
But no more!

The St. Augustine lighthouse is 165 feet above sea level.  

There are 219 steps that take you to the very top of the light house...  

This is just at the beginning and at this point I was like one of the people in the FAQ on the website ( who wished there was an elevator. This is actually looking back down.

As mentioned in a previous posting, The lighthouse was the first lighthouse built in Florida territory in 1824. But according to Sir Francis Drake's attack on the city by Baptista Boazio in 1589, there is a wooden watchtower which is described in Drake's account. 

If I were building the lighthouse I might have been tempted to say it was high enough but I am not a builder of lighthouses and what do I know? If I had been the builder the light would probably not made it out to sea...
But more FAQS: By 1737 the wooden watch tower was put under some improvements and was constructed of the now familiar coquina stone. And it was now more regularly referred to as a "lighthouse."

 In 1880, the original structure and whatever improvements had been made upon it, crashed into the sea where no one would see anything but the sea. You can view it's smooth stones when tides are low. Fortunately, preparedness was the name of the game and the light had already been lit on the new lighthouse- the one we now view as a historic relic of the past. 

Lard oil was the original fuel of choice. A rather smelly fuel I would think. Later they went to kerosene and the silver reflectors were replaced by the Fresnel Lens which you will see when I finally arrive at the top.
 The sign says, "Try your hand again at "Toting the Oil". 
I think not.
Mo said it was heavy and I take his word for it.

So here it is! The Fresnel lens. The lighthouse is still an active aid to navigation although it is privately owned. The lens was damaged in 1986 by rifle fire and 19 of the prisms were broken. The Coast Guard considered removing the lens with a more modern, airport beacon but the Junior Service League worked to restore the antique lens and with the aid of two Coast Guard retirees, the lens was restored and is properly maintenanced each week. 

The lighthouse is quite some distance from the shore which might lead some to wonder if the lighthouse was moved...

It wasn't!

The shoreline has changed due to currents. The website has a nifty little map of the changing shoreline.  

During WWII, the lighthouse was used by the coastguard for training purposes and as a lookout post against enemy ships and submarine which did frequent the coast.  

In 1994, the lighthouse first opened to the public. Along with helping to preserve other lighthouses in Florida, The museum keeps an active archeological program that continues to research the sites around St. Augustine and the regions nearby.  A number of  historic shipwrecks along with the remains of the first lighthouse have been investigated by staff archeologists. The museum also researches boatbuilding and maintains a collection of Coast Guard artifacts from WWII. 
The lighthouse is the third highest in Florida although the original was only 52 feet high.

There were some visitors to the tower who would immediately magnet themselves to the wall when they reached the observation deck. I really felt sorry for them-- so afraid of heights they couldn't enjoy the splendid scenery. And glad for myself that I no longer suffer this affliction. I bent quite far over the railing at times.

Key West Lighthouse and Museum
The Key West lighthouse is not as high as the St. Augustine tower. It is an 86 foot tower just peaking over the trees from the Hemingway House

Built in 1847 to replace the wooden tower on Whitehead Point which had been destroyed the previous year in a hurricane (who says no hurricanes hit Key West?), this location was chosen, at 14 feet above sea level to protect it from a similar fate.   

The stairwell is dizzying, with fewer places to rest and no place to sit but fortunately only 88 steps to climb!

Constructed from brick, the original tower was only 66 feet high. In 1894, 20 more feet were added, brining it to it's current full height. 

The Lighthouse was decommissioned in 1969 and, sadly,  is no longer in practical use. 

After a $265,000 facelift, the lighthouse opened to the public in 1989. Which I am, happily, one. From this point I can see a favorite spot: Zachary Taylor's Australian Pines which were endangered at one point. 

Not indigenous to the area, they have nevertheless found a place on the island and have provided a shelter against battering winds and hurricanes for birds and wildlife. When the city began shipping in palm trees and sand to the beaches, they also wanted to get rid of the pine. A group rose up called "Saveourpine" who managed to keep the city from ravaging the shoreline but it was a touch and go moment. 

The lesson? activists groups still work, I guess. That's what the Teaparty thinks anyway. Or the Koch bros. hope they'll keep thinking. 

Although the beach continues to be "developed" in small ways- perhaps more indigenously. 

A nice backdrop for a picture. You see the wires at this observation deck... I guess they have more concerns about jumpers here. They didn't have any wires on the lighthouse at St. Augustine. Of course they had a guide at the top although how she could have stopped a jumper, I don't know.  

The lighthouse keepers house...

Newman United Methodist Church founded in 1887. Still active and harassing gays on the island no doubt. Methodist used to be more liberal and known for champion civil rights-- these days it is up to individual church bodies and Key West, like the rest of this country has it's share of conservative busybodies who like to get into the bedrooms of people they have no business getting into the bedrooms of.  

Blue skies and the pines. A little plane that I was hoping to capture but it was too far away.

I had driven by this Poinciana tree several times during the week and wanted to stop and take a picture of it. But I knew that we were coming to the lighthouse so I decided to wait. The wait was worth it.

This has to be one of the most beautiful trees on the planet! 

The Front of the lighthouse keepers house. We didn't tour it today as we'd been inside many times before and there isn't much to see, frankly.

We walk the grounds and see what there is to see. Get as many photographs as we want...

And wait a few more years

 until the next time...

1 comment:

  1. How Do i get a set of DVD's of the Key West TV Show?


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