The Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Florida, houses a tourist attraction that many people put on their itineraries each year, the Mayport Lighthouse. The Florida St. Johns River Lighthouse is the correct name for the Mayport Lighthouse, and it is located inside the naval base. Currently, tours are no longer available. The lighthouse is no longer operational, and now stands as a historical landmark. Those who enjoy visiting lighthouses around the world love the location, history, and features of this particular lighthouse.
st johns river lighthouse, 2
The first Saint John’s River Lighthouse was built in 1830, on a jetty on the southern side of the river. This was during a time when Florida was still just a territory in the United States and still hadn’t been granted statehood. Unfortunately, the lighthouse sustained too much damage to its structural foundation due to the storm surges from the ocean, and was torn down in just a few years time.
In 1835, the first lighthouse was torn down in order build the second lighthouse. The location for the new lighthouse was moved inland and to the northern bank of the river in order to protect it from the erosive effects of the sea. This location eventually proved to be a mistake because the shifting banks of the river, and build up of sand dunes obstructed the light’s view from the ocean. The second lighthouse, however, outlasted its predecessor by 18 years. It was torn down in 1959 in order to construct a replacement.
In 1859, the third Saint John’s River Lighthouse was built southwest of the location of the previous lighthouse. Shortly after it was completed, the Civil War broke out and it remained in commission and operated for a major portion of the war, unlike other lighthouses in the south. In 1864 a Confederate soldier shot out the light and it remained out of commission for the remainder of the war and wasn’t re-lit until 1869.
Despite a few modifications in size, the lighthouse tower stood unchanged and operational until 1930. A lightship named the Brunswick, stationed along the coast of Georgia, was reassigned to a position seven miles away from Saint John’s Lighthouse and renamed Saint John. The lightship basically took the functionality from the lighthouse and officials determined there wasn’t a need for both, so the lighthouse was put out of use.
In the 1940s, the Mayport Naval Station built a runway a short distance from the lighthouse. During the construction of the runway, fill material was brought in and buried 12 feet of the lighthouse. The original door and part of the first floor are actually underground now from being buried by the fill material.
The Mayport Lighthouse (the Saint John’s River Lighthouse) of 1859 was constructed out of brick and rose to the height of 63 feet. The lighthouse was outfitted with a Frensel lens. In approximately 1887 or 1888, the tower was extended to the height by 15 feet in order to increase visibility.
Today, the Florida St. Johns River Lighthouse stands quaintly on the Mayport Naval base. The tower has been repainted an outstanding red hue, and the top is white with a black band around it. The Florida St. Johns River Lighthouse is one of the most attractive lighthouses in appearance.