In 1824, an old Spanish watchtower in St. Augustine became Florida's first lighthouse. In 1878, due to an encroaching ocean , this lighthouse crashed into the sea. Fortunately, the U.S. government had foreseen such an incident and had replaced it with a new one four years earlier; that is the lighthouse that stands today.
Construction on the new tower had began in 1871, and was designed by Paul Pelz, who also designed the Library of Congress. Built out of Alabama brick, Georgia granite and Philadelphia iron, it took three years to complete. On October 15, 1874, the lightkeeper lit the new first order Fresnel lens for the first time.
The fuel for the first light (four concentric wicks) was lard oil; in 1885 it changed to kerosene, and to electricity in 1936. In 1955, the lighthouse became automated and the last lightkeeper retired. Lamplighters then became responsible for the care of the lens, until 1989 when the United States Coast Guard took over that responsibility. Today, the lighthouse remains an active aid to navigation under their control.