In 1802, the Georgia
General Assembly gave six acres on the southern tip of Cumberland Island to the U.S. Government for a lighthouse, this land was the southernmost point in the U.S. on Atlantic coast at that time because Florida was under Spanish rule, it then took eighteen years before the lighthouse was complete in 1820. Maybe if the U.S. had controlled Florida before the lighthouse was built it would have been built on Amelia Island
, instead of Cumberland Island and it never would have had to have been moved. However in 1838 the lighthouse was dismantled brick by brick and shipped across the river to be reconstructed atop the highest spot on Amelia Island, where the beacon was likely more visible to help guide ships into the St. Mary's River and along the Atlantic Coast.
The Amelia Island Lighthouse is considered the oldest structure on the island.
In the early days, the light source for the tower consisted of a collection of fourteen oil lamps, backed by reflectors, then in 1856 the lighthouse was upgraded with a third-order Fresnel lens. In 1933 the lights became powered by electricity, which allowed the station to be automated in 1970.
The lighthouse was out of service during the Civil war but wasn't damaged and quickly returned to service after the war was over.
After the war there were about twenty head keepers assigned to keep the light burning. These keepers lived in a very small brick house at first which was soon replaced by a two-story residence. There was also another structure, a square one story dwelling with a hipped roof, built on the property, but unfortunately none of these historic structures remain. In the early 1960s, last form of the keeper's residence was torn down by the Coast Guard and replaced by the current structure.
In March of 2001 the lighthouse was officially handed over to the city of Fernandina Beach, under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000. Then in 2004, thanks to a grant from the Florida Division of Historical Resources
, the restoration work on the tower was complete.
The Amelia Island Lighthouse is operated by the U.S. Coast Guard, but because it is located in a residential area, public access to the lighthouse was problematic. After weighing various options the town of Fernandina Beach decided, for a small fee, to offer two public tours each month, visitors are bussed to the site so as not to disturb residents. However, the tour does not allow anyone to the top of the lighthouse.
The Amelia Island Lighthouse's tower is 64 feet tall and stands 107 feet above sea level it flashes every ten seconds and can be seen up to 20 miles out to sea. The structure itself is white, the tower on top is black and there are sixty-nine granite steps up to that tower. It can be seen above the trees from Atlantic Avenue or from the water. It is still operational and is maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard.