What's Happening This Summer at Ponce Inlet Lighthouse

Mon, May 22, 2023 at 9:03AM

What's Happening This Summer at Ponce Inlet Lighthouse

Upcoming for Ponce Inlet Lighthouse Volunteers

The Ponce Inlet Lighthouse and Museum’s Education Program and its Volunteer Corps hasn’t taken a summer vacation in at least twenty years, and this year is no different.  The stretch of late May through early August sees our volunteers, and our programs as busy as they are during the other three seasons, sometimes even busier! New this summer are specific activities aimed at our younger audiences.  Open to all visitors, special presentations at the station and our engaging outreach programs at various historic, libraries and civic sites around the county bring the station and its rich history to our communities.

Volunteer training is a never-ending feature at the PILH, and since our tours and programs are geared towards making history fun and interesting, our training efforts mirror that.  Five Flags Flew Over Florida was a fun and informative special presentation in June around the National celebration of “Flag Day” by Lead Docent John Mann, who also discussed the basics of Vexillogy.  Relax, Vexillogy has nothing to do with learning how to annoy or upset people, it is the formal study of flags and banners as symbols of identity or nationality.

A “deep-dive” into better understanding the architecture of our National Historic Landmark light station was held during a walk-and-talk tour in May and again on June 20th by our Registrar and Assistant Curator Felipe De Paula.  Since some of our volunteers and other folks snow birded on us, these fascinating “tours and talks” and other presentations will be repeated in the Fall or Winter and you can check our activities calendar at Event Calendar (ponceinlet.org).

Later this summer, PILH volunteers will visit and tour the Cape Canaveral light station, a rare look at a very differently engineered tower.  This Cape Canaveral tour is for volunteers only, but touring the Cape Canaveral is available to all.

What’s Happening from July through September

On July 1st at 1 pm celebrate the beginning of Independence Day Weekend with presenter John Mann by getting to know Alexander Hamilton who also happens to be The Father of America’s Lighthouses. Yes, Hamilton inherited supervision of the already existing colonial American lights in his treasury role, but did you know he, and his boss, President Washington, were almost hands-on instrumental in building the young nation’s first Federal lighthouse tower?

 July 13 at 11:00 am will be a focused (pun intended) presentation on The Science of Light and The Fresnel Lens done by Docent Bill Henry at the lighthouse.  (See also the 1 pm July 27th Ponce Inlet Lighthouse presentation which will salute the man, Augustin Jean Fresnel, and the 200th anniversary of the lighting of the first Fresnel Lens at the Cordouan Lighthouse off the coast of Brittany, France.)  The Fresnel Lens is hailed as the first modern optic and when installed in lighthouses, including the Ponce Inlet (then Mosquito Inlet) Lighthouse in 1887, has saved millions of lives world-wide from shipwreck and death.  Fresnel’s mathematical and scientific discoveries created a whole new world of Physics and at the same time opened new technologies.

Three lighthouses in Volusia County?  OK, so there’s Big Red!  Really, two other ones?  New Smyrna Beach Library on July 18 at 2 pm will host John Mann presenting The Three Lighthouses of Volusia County.

August 5th is National Lighthouse Day and will be observed by a presentation at 1 pm honoring The Twelve National Historic Landmark Lighthouses.  Ponce Inlet Lighthouse achieved this major honor in 1998 and was selected as one of the twelve most significant and notable lighthouses built in the country.  All told about 1500 lighthouses were built, with never more than 850 in operation at the same time.

On August 3 at Port Orange Library at 2pm, and August 12 at 1 PM at the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse Education Building, special presentations called The Greatest Generation: The Spirit of ’45 will honor the can-do attitude of an entire generation affected by the trials and hardships of World War II.  Both presentations are done by Docent John Mann. 

On August 22 at 11:00am, PILH Director of Operations Mike Bennett will present The City of Vera Cruz, a heart-breaking true story of the local and very deadly 1880 shipwreck of the steamer Vera Cruz 12 miles off Cape Canaveral which ran into a hurricane 12 miles off Cape Canaveral and left a debris field and 70 dead passengers and crew along the beach from Mosquito Inlet to Mantazas.

All these presentations are open to all visitors, as well as our volunteers.


Summer is also time for play.  PILH docents will be at five public libraries this summer to teach our present-day kids the games that lighthouse keeper’s children played at the end of the 19th century.  These hands-on-days will emphasize that games teach physical and mental skills.  A great example is the handmade device of our Indigenous People’s children.  It was nothing more than a simple foot-long slender stick with a circle attached to it by a string.  Flipping the circle on to the stick made it a toy that reinforced eye-hand coordination, invaluable for success in their natural environment.  Local libraries will host PILH docents playing 19th Century games with ages 5-12 kids at Daytona Beach Library at City island on July 26 at 2 pm; De Bary Library on June 22 at 3pm; New Smyrna Beach Library on June 28 at 2 pm; Ormond Beach Library on July 18 at 3:30 pm and Port Orange Library on July 7 at 2 pm.

Two stories, one dealing with a Ponce Inlet Lighthouse Keeper’s child’s pet who get in trouble and needs to be rescued, and another about the real boss of the lighthouse, our Principal Cat Nelly, will be told or read to kids at some of our country libraries this summer.   For the younger kids, ages 4-7 Nelly the Lighthouse Cat, is all about the adventures of Nelly, our black and white cat during a day where she encounters her friendly animal pals who live around the lighthouse, and in addition, interacts with the delighted human visitors who visit.  For 4 and older is The Story of Billy and Jingles is the true story of Billy, son of one of the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse keepers, and his adventuresome dog, Jingles, who gets into a fix of his own making, and has to be rescued by ten-year-old Billy.  In addition to the story reading and telling, a take-home craft will be given to the kids attending.

Summer camps from all over Volusia County will visit the station on almost a daily basis.

Have fun, don’t stop reading and learning, and be safe out there!

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