To celebrate a new interactive exhibit, the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum is hosting a Victorian dinner with keynote speaker, Ed Bearss, Chief Historian Emeritus for the National Park Service.

ST. AUGUSTINE, FLA. – On Thursday, October 2nd, historian Ed Bearss will headline a special evening of events to celebrate the grand opening of At Home with the Harns, a new interactive exhibit at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum. The ticketed event, which also includes a Victorian dinner, silent auction and live entertainment, will kick off at 7:00 p.m. with Bearss scheduled to speak at 8:30 p.m.

“I met Ed at the Civil War Institute summer sessions at Gettysburg College some years ago,” said Flagler College History Professor Dr. Thomas Graham, who will introduce Bearss at the event. “One of the Civil War experts on hand casually remarked, ‘Ed can turn going to the water fountain into an adventure.’ He is truly a legend at the National Park Service.”

Born in Billings, Mont., Bearss graduated from high school in 1941 before hitchhiking around the U.S. to visit Civil War battlefields. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II and was seriously wounded by machine gun fire in 1944. Bearss went on to earn a master’s degree in history from Indiana University and two honorary doctorates.

Bearss served as the Chief Historian of the National Park Service from 1981 to 1994. After his retirement from the park service in 1995, he was awarded the Chief Historian Emeritus title. His accolades and accomplishments include a number of historic awards and major appearances, including a feature in Ken Burns’ landmark PBS series The Civil War.

“We are very honored to have Ed as our guest and keynote speaker for our grand opening of this wonderful new exhibit,” said museum Executive Director Kathy A. Fleming. “It’s going to be a tremendous night to celebrate the history of the lighthouse and especially the contributions of William Harn and his family.”

The event will feature a Victorian dinner inspired by the menu at Henry Flagler’s Hotel Ponce de Leon (now Flagler College) on its opening night, January 10, 1888. Guests will also have the opportunity to bid on silent auction items including special vacation packages, sports memorabilia, unique St. Augustine experiences and other specialty items donated by the community.

The evening’s Victorian theme matches the museum’s new exhibit, which immerses guests into life at the lighthouse during the late 19th century. A series of interactive panels allow visitors insight into the perspectives of Head Keeper William Harn, his wife Kate, his daughter Ida, his First Assistant Keeper Jerome Lopez, as well as archaeologists studying lighthouse history.

Born in 1834, William Harn was serving at Fort Sumter when the Civil War broke out. He went on to lead the 3rd New York Independent Battery in several major battles including Gettysburg and Appomattox. Harn was awarded the title of Brevet Major for his service. After the war, he joined the U.S. Lighthouse Service and worked as St. Augustine’s head keeper from 1875 until his death from tuberculosis in 1889.

The grand opening event in sponsored in part by Fletcher Management Company, VyStar and Susan Ponder-Stansel. Tickets are $100 for museum members and $125 for non-members. Limited seating is available. To purchase tickets please call (904) 829-0745 or visit



A pivotal navigation tool and unique landmark of St. Augustine for over 140 years, the St. Augustine Light Station is host to centuries of history in the Nation’s Oldest PortSM. Through interactive exhibits, guided tours and maritime research, the 501(c)3 non-profit St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum is on a mission to preserve, present and keep alive the story of the Nation’s Oldest Port SM as symbolized by our working lighthouse. We are the parent organization to the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) and an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.