In January, TAPS investigated the St. Augustine Lighthouse for a second time. The first one was eventful and the second was just as good. On occasion, I provide more information on locations TAPS investigates on their show. Two years ago, I posted about St. Augustine Lighthouse. And earlier this year, it was pointed out that some of the information was wrong. Kathleen, who works in archives at the lighthouse, provided a more accurate history:
Before the lighthouse we have now there was another one just to the east. We're not sure when it was built (this was a Spanish colony then (1600s). When the British took over in 1763 they made improvements and when St. Augustine became a US territory and later, a state, the US government made more improvements. Eventually the beach eroded so much that it was necessary to built a new tower 1/4 mile inland. The land was bought from locals who owned it .
Ballard never owned the lighthouse. It was built by the U Lighthouse Service, which was later absorbed into the US Coast Guard. He was one of the people who owned the land (2 separate parcels) on which it's built. There was some delay in the government's acquisition of the land because of a dispute between Ballard and the owners of the other property over boundaries, etc. Ballard ended up losing money on the deal. The present lighthouse was completed in 1874 and the old light fell into the ocean in 1880.
Hezekiah Pittee was an engineer who was in charge of the construction. Two of his daughters drowned when a hand car or trolley used to bring construction material from the pier to the site went off the end of the pier while 5 children were playing in it. We have absolutely no way of knowing what conversations took place between Hezekiah and his family. Two Pittee girls and an African-American girl who is described in the news reports as a household servant (no name given) were killed and a Pittee son was rescued. Even the descendants have no personal information and they have letters, etc. from the surviving Pittee children. Any stories about the Pittee family other than the news article regarding the accident are fabricated. We have many reports dating back many years of a girl haunting the keepers' house but there is no way to connect that girl to the Pittee girls and the house was not built until long after they had died (They're buried in Maine or Massachusetts).
Keeper Swain used to say that he could hear footsteps following him and he could smell cigar smoke and he thought it was the ghost of Keeper Rasmussen (or Rasmusson). Many people have reported smelling smoke. Most describe it as cigar smoke but to me and others it's more like sweet pipe smoke. We also have many reports of footsteps on the grounds and in the tower, as well as voices. We have many stories from visitors and staff about a figure seen in the basement. Since he appears to be dressed in dark blue clothing we refer to him as "the Man in Blue", not original but non-commitally descriptive.
For more information please visit their website at www.staugustinelighthouse.com.