In 1876, Major William Harn commissioned the Keeper’s Cottage. He became the first professional keeper of the St. Augustine lighthouse that same year. The Harn family was known for their hospitality; they were said to serve lemonade and hold an open house for visitors of the community. When he wasn’t working on the upkeep of the lighthouse, Harn spent most of his time with his wife and six daughters in the parlor of their home.
William Harn was a Civil War veteran. After the war ended, he moved to Charleston for five years where he served as an assistant keeper before receiving the offer to move to Anastasia Island. When he had the Keeper’s Cottage commissioned, he was already making around $720 per year, a sum that was considered quite high in those times.
The Cottage is three stories high, and the first story currently houses the museum. The parlor which the Harns were said to occupy has been recreated and is a primary exhibit; a little glimpse into the life of a lighthouse keeper. The Harn’s invited guests to their parlor all throughout the day, and the other families that shared the cottage with them were just as welcoming but their identities remain unknown. Another odd fact is that the architect that designed the cottage is also unknown, but it is sometimes credited to Harn’s neighbor (and architect) James Renwick.
The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum offers a guided behind-the-scenes tour of the Keeper’s Cottage and the history of the lighthouse. For more information visit www.staugustinelighthouse.org.