Digest>Archives> Jul/Aug 2017

A Nondescript Lighthouse with a Unique Beacon

By Timothy Harrison


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Built of the art-deco style of the era, and modern by lighthouse standards, the St. Johns Lighthouse in Mayport, Florida was built in 1954 to replace the St. Johns River Lightship LV-84 which, in 1929, had replaced the St. John’s River Lighthouse that had been discontinued that same year.

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The St. Johns Lighthouse shortly after its ...

Most lighthouse photographers consider it an ugly lighthouse and don’t even bother to waste their time to photograph it, instead opting to photograph the nearby St. Johns River Lighthouse.

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Vintage aerial view of St. John’s Lighthouse. ...

But, what most people fail to realize is that the St. Johns Lighthouse once had a beacon that was not only unique to lighthouse history, but was also serviced in a unique way as can be seen in the photo taken on July 15, 1955 of a Coast Guardsmen standing on a ladder while inserting a new 1,000-watt bulb inside the lowered mirrored compartment of the beacon.

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A modern view of the St. Johns Lighthouse.
Photo by: Vickie Aegerter

Manufactured by Crouse-Hinds of Syracuse, New York, this revolving airways type LHB Beacon consisted of a collection of mirrors from which each set there is focused a 1,000 watt bulb. Situated at a height of 83-feet above water, the mirror-reflected bulbs cast a 250,000 candle-power of light that was visible for 35 miles.

In its press release at the time, the U.S. Coast Guard stated that this type of lighting apparatus was the newest of its kind to be used in new lighthouses to be built by the Coast Guard. “This whole light assembly of the St. Johns Lighthouse slides down pipes to a position on the lantern deck inside the upper white square masonry tower where the stairs end, and where a Coast Guardsman then climbs and stands on a ladder to make the necessary adjustments. The lowering and raising of the light is made possible by means of lines by pulleys which lead to counterbalancing weights.”

The lighthouse never had a lantern to protect the lens; instead it was protected by a Plexiglas dome that fit over the lighting apparatus, making it an ugly headless lighthouse. The Crouse-Hinds airways style beacon that is shown here was later removed in favor of a solar-powered beacon that today sits totally exposed atop the flat-topped tower. The St. Johns Lighthouse was automated in 1967 and Coast Guard personnel were removed.

This story appeared in the Jul/Aug 2017 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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