|Puerto San Juan (El Morro), PR|
Description: Four lighthouses have served to mark the entrance to Puerto San Juan, one of the most important ports in the Spanish Empire. The first Puerto San Juan Lighthouse, and the first in all of Puerto Rico, was reportedly built in 1846 and exhibited a light using five parabolic reflectors.
The cast-iron tower was destroyed during the Battle of San Juan, part of the Spanish-American War, which occurred in May of 1898 when Admiral Sampson arrived with a fleet of twelve ships and briefly bombarded the city. The Americans gained control of Puerto Rico after the Treaty of Paris was ratified on December 10, 1898. Ensign W.R. Gherardi of the U.S. Navy was put in charge of Puerto Rico lighthouses on January 24, 1899, and he immediately began work on an octagonal tower, built of reinforced concrete, to replace the cast-iron one. The light from El Morro Lighthouse began burning again on March 22, 1899.
After a few years, the concrete tower developed a serious crack and was torn down and replaced with the present three-story tower in 1908. The Lighthouse Board adopted a Spanish-influenced design for this brick tower, the top of which is surrounded by a crenellated parapet with an ornamental guardhouse at each corner, similar to those seen on fort. A third-order Fresnel lens, manufactured in France by Sautter, Lemonnier, & Cie and equipped with eight flash panels, was installed in the tower’s helical bar lantern room. A 200-pound weight, suspended in the central column of the tower’s cast-iron spiral staircase, powered a clockwork mechanism that controlled the revolution of the lens. An electrical motor replaced this drive mechanism in 1932.
The present El Morro Lighthouse was originally painted gray, but by 1937 it had been painted a cream color with brown trimmings. In preparation for the quincentennial celebration of the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the New World, parking lots and paved roads surrounding El Morro were removed, and the lighthouse was repaired and restored to its original appearance by the National Park Service.
Located atop the walls of El Morro on the east side of the entrance to San Juan harbor. The lighthouse is owned by the U.S. National Park Service. Grounds open, tower closed.
The lighthouse is owned by the U.S. National Park Service. Grounds open, tower closed.
Notes from a friend:Kraig writes:
During my visit to Puerto Rico in 2009, the lantern room of the El Morro Lighthouse was undergoing restoration so the top of the structure was surrounded by scaffolding. The work had commenced roughly a year earlier, but lack of funds had delayed completion of the project. I had read on the National Park Service website about Lighthouse Tours that were offered at the fort, so I contacted them to find out when they were offered. That was when I learned that the lighthouse was being worked on and that public tours were not currently being offered.
See our List of Lighthouses in Puerto Rico
Pictures on this page copyright Wilfried Kalinowski, used by permission.