JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — An iconic part of the First Coast is getting some much-needed repairs.
The St. Augustine Lighthouse is getting what its director calls a “soup to nuts” restoration job.
Kathy Fleming, the St. Augustine Lighthouse Executive Director, is simply giddy as she walked through the tower, Monday.
“We’re repainting the entire inside the tower,” she noted. The interior walls of the St. Augustine Lighthouse have not been painted since the 1990s “when the Junior Service League first did it.”
And the metal inside as well as on the top of the tower is rusty in places.
“So the metalwork we really have to work on,” Fleming said. “So this needs to be done every 5 to 6 years. It’s something you want to catch early.”
“And we’re going to replace four or five stairs that had hairline cracks in them. And we’re also working on the woodwork,” Fleming added.
The windows that Hurricane Matthew blew out in 2016 are also getting restored.
Overall, the wall is structurally sound, Fleming noted.
“Ninety percent of the lighthouse is in great shape,” Roy Fischer said. He is the foreman on the 3 to 4 week job. And he’s restored dozens of lighthouses. He said this would be his 32nd lighthouse job.
“This restoration is the most involved restoration job I’ve ever been a part of. At one time,” Fischer said. “It’s everything all at once.”
It’s a big job for a big lighthouse that is about the height of a 16-story building. And sometimes the job can be a little precarious, way up high.
The total cost of the project is $883,000. State funds, private donations, and money from the Florida Lighthouse Association (which is the bucket of money from the lighthouse car plates) is paying for the project. However, the lighthouse is still fundraising, hoping to raise $400,000 to cover the costs.
It is still a functioning lighthouse. “We’re still there for the mariners, even tough they have modern technology,” Fleming said. “We’re still the light they see when they’re on the top of the wave.”