Dames Point Lightship and Lighthouse History

Dames Point was the site of a sharp bend in the St. Johns River where a 12 foot shoal was a danger to shipping heading for Jacksonville.

A small lightship was established to mark the shoal in 1857. In addition to a fixed white light from a small lens, the lightship was equipped with both a fog bell and a horn.

During the Civil War, the lightship was towed upriver and moored at Jacksonville for safekeeping. All of its equipment was removed and stored ashore. Several ships were scuttled in Jacksonville just before the first Federal occupation of the city. Reported to be "an old craft and in bad condition" at the start of the war, it seems unlikely that the ship survived the war.

No known pictures of Dames Point Lighthouse exist. This picture shows a "standard river and harbor" lighthouse of the period. If anyone comes across a photograph or drawing of this lighthouse or the lightship, please contact me!

It wasn't until 1870 that shipping activity in the river justified reestablishing a light on the shoal. Another lightship was considered, but it was rejected as being too expensive. Instead, a small wood frame lighthouse on wood piles was funded in 1871 and first lit on July 15, 1872. The lighthouse operated until 1893 when "training walls" built to help scour the main channel made it unnecessary. The cupola and lens were removed and the lighthouse roofed over.

The lighthouse survived until it was destroyed by fire in 1913.

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Created: 12/28/96
Last Updated: 12/28/96
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WebMaster: Neil Hurley
Copyright 1995, 1996 Historic Lighthouse Publishers