I visited the Light House at St. Marks, Florida with my friend Katie. Due to Covid restrictions they do not allow anyone inside, but they still charge $5 to drive down Lighthouse Road and look at the tower.
The 65 foot version, a hollow walled structure, was completed in March of 1830 at a cost of 11,765 dollars. The Customs inspector failed the construction, the plan had called for solid walls, and the lighthouse was rebuilt in 1831. The lighthouse keeper, Jesse H. Willis, used 15 Argrand-Lewis Whale oil lamps, brighter than any earlier lamps at the time, with 15 inch reflectors to warn the oncoming ships. The solid wall began to crack as it settled and they had to use iron straps, like barrell hoop staves, to hold it together.
In 1837, a 10 foot tidal wave swept away all the support buildings around the lighthouse, except for the keepers dwelling, and killed 8 people. The next year, 1838, it was recommended that the lighthouse be rebuilt. This was accomplished in 1842, with hollow walls again, in its present location. The next year, more disaster, a hurricane struck and destroyed the keeper’s home this time, killing thirteen people at the lighthouse. The tower survived this onslaught. On April 19, 1861, President Lincoln ordered the blockade of southern ports. The lens was removed and stored in the nearby town of St. Marks.
The Confederate soldiers then started using the tower as an outlook until repeated shelling by Union naval forces stopped this practice. After the war repairs were made , the light relit, and the tower was raised to a height of 73 feet. A Fresnel (fre-NEL) lens was installed in 1867. The lens, invented by the French Physicist, Augustine-Jean Fresnel, a Fourth Order fixed light, is made of various sized prisms which gather light from a weak source and project a strong steady beam. Through the years twenty keepers have maintained the the tower.
A road was built, to the lighthouse, in 1938. In 1960, the light was automated and in the year 2000 it was turned off and replaced by an exterior solar powered white light that blinks every 4 seconds. in 2013 the U.S. Coast Guard transferred ownership to The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.