One of two lights on the grounds of Naval Station Mayport, the St. Johns River Light provided safety for mariners on a point of land where the St. Johns River finally reaches the Atlantic.
Built in 1858, the St. Johns River Light should be distinguished from it’s much younger cousin – the St. Johns Light – which is located on the opposite side of the naval station on the Atlantic coast.
The light was originally built to a height of 74 feet (22.6 m). It was built several hundred feet inland to avoid the erosion problems two prior lights had. It was completed only 3 years before the Civil War. Confederates took over the area and the light wasn’t used again until until the war was over.
It’s believed that around 1887 additional work was done on the light – the most obvious change was the current copper cupola was installed. The light had a fairly short active life as it was decommissioned in 1929 when a lightship replaced it.
During World War II, the US Navy purchased much of the land on the south side of the St. Johns River including the property on which the light stood. The Navy did some work around the light, partly to construct the nearby runway. The work included removing a building that was attached to the light and raising the ground level in the area some ten feet. This ended up covering the door for the light so that today the only access is a window about 6 feet above the current ground level.
The light was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 and in 1980 is underwent renovation. It’s unclear as to the current height of the light.
Today, it’s easy to see the light. It’s located only about 100 feet from a fence that’s the property line of the naval station. And that fence is only a few hundred feet along Broad Street to the Mayport Ferry Landing. There are hopes that the public would be eventually allowed to visit the light, but the naval station is closed to nearly all non-military personnel. Obviously, the Navy could donate the light and the property immediately around the light to the city of Mayport, but that hasn’t happened as of 2020.