St Johns County state legislator Cyndi Stevenson will try again to secure funding to preserve the tower of the iconic St Augustine Lighthouse. Since 2017, the St Augustine Republican has unsuccessfully pushed for the St Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars for preservation and repairs each session.
The 165-foot lighthouse, now 145 years old, is a Smithsonian affiliate and is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. According to information provided to Historic City News, 216,000 people visit the lighthouse each year, making it one of the most heavily trafficked attractions in the City. The site is operated by a small paid staff and 266 volunteers.
“It’s really important to St Augustine, St Johns County and Florida that we maintain this important historical resource,” Stevenson said. And while the Legislature faces tighter budget constraints this Session, Stevenson remains hopeful the museum will receive their fair share.
Half a million dollars every five or six years since 1980 go toward preserving the building. The nearly $485,000 in Stevenson’s bill (HB 4757), filed Wednesday, would go in part toward repainting the tower stairs and some metal restoration.
“The work is recommended to protect the public, and to protect the oldest brick structure in St Augustine,” according to the budget request. Through donors and ticket revenue, the museum has paid for its own renovation and maintenance work, including the annual brick stair repainting.
Funding would in part reimburse the museum for the loss of admissions revenue during the two-to-three weeks it would need to close. Those estimated losses total nearly $200,000, according to the budget proposal.
The museum website states that its mission is “to discover, preserve present and keep alive the stories of the Nation’s Oldest Port, as symbolized by our working St Augustine Lighthouse.” The current lighthouse stands on the site of the state’s first, which was built in 1824.