Preservation 50 Friday: Would you trust your life to a computer?

(Following several shipping disasters near Evanston, local residents successfully lobbied the federal government for a lighthouse. Construction was complete in 1873.

Following several shipping disasters near Evanston, local residents successfully lobbied the federal government for a lighthouse. Construction was complete in 1873.

I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t trust my life to a computer. In this age of self driving cars like Tesla, I don’t think I’d book a flight on a self driving Jet. Would you?

So when I read an article from Lighthouses of Europe by Daniel Charles that said GPS could replace Lighthouses making them obsolete, I took a pause. Lighthouses have a history of saving countless lives by warning of treacherous reefs and hazards. Mariners can track where they are by the daymark and flashing signal beam. Most lighthouses are now automated.

And GPS? The GPS signal sometimes falters. Navigation systems  err.

Google maps is pretty reliable but recently it told me and my daughter to get off an exit then get back on the highway only to be told to get off the next exit and get back on the highway again. We decided to use common sense and ignore Google maps. It probably wasn’t updated we surmised.

At least It was no life and death matter we were only going to church. I felt like Google was more about fire and brimstone than the sermon we heard that day!

GPS and Google rely on satellites. I think we forget that satellite signals can sometimes be blocked. Granted Lighthouses aren’t full proof either but together with GPS it makes a strong case for safety.

Even self driving cars have the capability of being overridden by a human for safety reasons. Otherwise you’d have computers playing Russian Roulette at an approaching accident and deciding who should live or die. Life is complicated enough.


Preservation 50 Friday: Hurricane Matthew’s Mayhem and Mercy

A view of new Smyrna Beach

A view of New Smyrna Beach along A1A before Hurricane Matthew.

Florida’s iconic A1A is symbolic of the struggles facing Florida after being hit by Hurricane Matthew. Portions of the scenic route will be closed for several months. Some areas face massive damages while others have no or minimal property damage.

The powerful winds and rain caused the downfall of trees throughout the state. Nine people died in hurricane related deaths in Florida. Because much of Florida’s Atlantic coast is at sea level, storm surge caused huge damage and beach erosion in spite of the hurricane staying offshore.

Hillsboro lighthouse

Hillsboro Lighthouse Inlet at Pompano Beach

Beach erosion and sea encroachment are major problems for lighthouses. It led to the demise of Cape St. George Lighthouse on the Gulf Coast. The Hillsboro Lighthouse on the Atlantic Coast was already suffering from beach erosion and Hillsboro Lighthouse Society was raising funds for restoration.

Florida has approximately nine lighthouses on the east coast between Miami and Amelia Island. The St. Augustine Lighthouse is currently open but the phones are down. The Amelia Island Lighthouse, Cape Canaveral Lighthouse, Hillsboro Lighthouse, Ponce de Leon Lighthouse and Cape Florida Lighthouse are open regular hours. There are no lighthouse tours currently scheduled for Jupiter Lighthouse. Check their website for updates. As for status of the two lighthouses located Naval Station Mayport, I was unable to verify anything.

The road to recovery may take a while in Florida. Still Floridians should be thankful for the lives that were spared during Hurricane Matthew.

History Comes Alive at King John’s Castle

King John's Castle

King John’s Castle.

In the tale of Robin Hood, I learned about King Richard’s brother King John who usurped the throne and the crown. At King John’s Castle In Limerick, Ireland; I learned about the invasion of the Vikings and the English. I visited interactive displays that brought the castle to life. The castle took decades to build before being completed in 1212. Inside the castle are archeological remains of buildings and structures dating back to the time of the Vikings.

Courtyard of the castle.

Courtyard of the castle.

I discovered that the Gaelic Society in early medieval Ireland had craftspeople and monasteries full of great thinkers and theologians who were esteemed throughout Europe. When the Normans invaded Ireland in 1169, they intermarried and adopted local customs.

During British rule, tension was created when Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church because he wanted a divorce. The persecution of Catholics led to widespread violence.
The castle was living timeline that further explained the culture and the history behind the formation of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

“A Terrible Beauty” Exhibit at the Hunt Museum

The History Lesson

“The History Lesson” and other thought provoking paintings on display.

Limerick was a perfect place to begin my lighthouse tour of Ireland. I learned about the history of the Irish people at the Hunt Museum’s exhibit “A Terrible Beauty.” It gave me valuable insight into the culture and the history behind the formation of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Silver coin Judas received to betray Jesus.

A silver coin thought to be the coin Judas received to betray Jesus.

The Hunt has a collection of 2,000 original works of art. I was fascinated by a coin said to be one of the silver coins Judas was given to betray Christ. There were modest works by Renoir and Picasso I admired.

I enjoyed the special exhibit “Terrible Beauty” by Robert Ballagh. It is a centennial reflection on the Irish uprising. Ballagh revisits paintings like Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading  the People”, Goya’s “Third of May” and other reinterpretations to bring to light the universal struggle for social justice. They provide a powerful backdrop to Ballagh’s other paintings that are a personal narrative about the courageous leaders of the uprising. I was especially intrigued by “The History Lesson.”

View of the Shannon River from the Hunt Museum.

View of the Shannon River from the Hunt Museum.

After touring with a docent, I stopped by the Museum cafe for tea and a light bite. I walked along a walkway outside the Museum to catch a glimpse of the Shannon River and King John’s Castle to complete my visit.



Preservation 50 Friday: The Closure of Washington Monument


Miami Design Preservation League poster rallying the community.

The iconic Washington Monument is closed indefinitely to the public due to faulty elevators. The National Park Service stated on Facebook: “Despite the continuing work on the Washington Monument elevator, we have not been able to determine the causes of the ongoing reliability issues. As a result, we have made the difficult decision not to reopen the Washington Monument until we can modernize the elevator control system.”

Despite the 555 foot obelisk towering over the city of Washington, I’m sure it was taken for granted like most landmarks. We see them but don’t see them. We want landmarks available for public use but are unwilling to spend the money and expertise needed to upkeep and preserve them. Hopefully the closing of the monument will draw attention to this other public landmarks.

The Coral Rock House before Restoration

The Coral Rock House before restoration.

Sometimes it takes extreme measures to get public attention. I’ve seen my share of boarded up historic buildings in Miami Beach. But thanks to the public and Miami Design Preservation League I have seen many return to their former glory.

Restored Coral Rock House.

Restored Coral Rock House.

I’m hoping the Washington Monument will reopen sooner than later if the public lets officials know how important this landmark is as a symbol of our nation.

Preservation 50 Friday: The Barefoot Mailman

Barefoot mailman statue

Statue of the Barefoot Mailman, James E. Hamilton.

Visit the Hillsboro Lighthouse on ” Barefoot Mailman Remembrance Day” on October 8. Enjoy a scenic boat ride and learn about James E. Hamilton who gave his life delivering mail.

A statue on the lighthouse grounds honors Hamilton who moved from Kentucky to Florida. He traded being a farmer for a career as a Barefoot Mailman. As often is the case, the grass was not greener in his new career. He went missing during one of his 68 mile routes.

For more information, visit

Sunset Tour at Jupiter Lighthouse

Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse.

Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse copyright by Elaine Marie Austin.

Enjoy spectacular views and watch the Jupiter Light blaze the night sky. Learn the nuts and bolts of a working lighthouse watchroom. Tour is approx 75 minutes, $15 members, $20 nonmembers, RSVP required. Tours are weather permitting. For details visit or call 561-747-8380.