St. Marks searches for new lighthouse keeper

Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 5:50 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Dressed in white brick and embraced by a salty breeze, a blazing beacon casts a watchful eye on the calm tides caressing Florida’s gulf coast.

Nearly 200 years ago the lighthouse began beckoning boats to St. Mark’s muddy shallows. Today, the pillar still woos visitors anew, a soaring ambassador for the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge.

And it needs a new keeper.

Friends of the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge have announced they’re looking to hire a new keeper for the second-oldest lighthouse in Florida.

The St. Marks Lighthouse has guided vessels through dangerous coastlines and rocky waters since 1831.

“It’s hard to imagine looking at little St. Marks that actually St. Marks in the early nineteenth century is one of the largest shipping points of the Gulf,” said Tom Baird, the Director of Friends of the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge.

For more than 100 years, keepers of the lighthouse would carry kerosene up the 85-step spiral staircase, made of wood and iron, to light the Fresnel lens to guide sailors and merchants to safety.

The tower has had 21 keepers, two of which were women.

“The wives and families were very active participants in the running of the lighthouse, and the two ladies followed their husbands and were accepted by the federal government to become lighthouse keepers,” said volunteer keeper Allen VanBrunt.

It all started with the first keeper in 1830, Samuel Crosby, and ended with Alton Gresham. The longest-serving keeper, John Young Gresham, did the job for more than 30 years.

“From 1918 to 1949, raised a family here and there are wonderful stories and photographs from the Gresham years,” Baird said.

The role of today’s keeper is to tend to the lighthouse and share its history with visitors.

“As a volunteer interpreter, we try to bring people in and give them the experience of what it was like to be living here in the lighthouse,” VanBrunt said. “We have various exhibits, and displays set up the history and the important facts.”

The job offers an opportunity to connect with those from near and far.

“Finding out where people come from all over the United States and we’ve got people from Europe who have come down here,” VanBrunt said.

The lighthouse is only open on Saturdays. But after the new keeper is secured, the lighthouse will be open Thursday-Sunday.

More information about the history of the lighthouse can be found here.

An eye-catching job opening in Wakulla County is sparking conversations.

The Friends of St. Marks Wildlife Refuge announced Wednesday they are searching for a new operator for Florida’s second-oldest lighthouse.

The new lighthouse attendant would need to commit 24 hours a week to creating a “warm and welcoming atmosphere” for visitors at the keeper’s quarter’s museum every Thursday through Sunday, according to the announcement.

The job would entail learning quickly and talking to guests from across the world. The listing says to contact the recruiters for more details on daily responsibilities.

Applicants must be at least 18 years old. Interested parties can submit their resume to

St. Marks searches for lighthouse keeper
St. Marks searches for lighthouse keeper(St. Marks Wildlife Refuge Association)