Watercolor… this, the third light tower built around the mouth of the St. Johns River, Florida, was erected in 1859… the first and second having succumbed to poor soil and erosion. An oil house was added to the 74-foot tall brick tower in 1890. In 1930, the light station was decommissioned, having been replaced by the St Johns Lightship (in service from 1929 to 1954), anchored 7 miles off shore. Naval Station Mayport was established in 1942, gradually occupying all of the land around the lighthouse.
Visiting for the first time… and without knowing its full history, I had the sense that something appeared odd about this tower. I did not see any kind of entryway. Well… In the process of building an airstrip on this military facility, the keeper’s house and the oil house were demolished and twelve to fifteen feet of fill was laid around the base of the tower and over the surrounding area… thereby burying the doorway and raising the entire grade to the height of the first window (on the opposite side of this view)… meaning… the tower is now only 62 feet tall. Consider that the terrain appears flat and level as far as one can see… the enormity and scale of the work and the amount of fill involved is hard to comprehend. I don’t know why the Navy didn’t just move the tower to a better location where it could have been a useful navigational aid. Now, like the St Johns Lighthouse on the east coast of NS Mayport, the St Johns River Lighthouse is confined within a fenced and guarded, active military base and public access is extremely limited.