San Juan

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    The first San Juan, or El Morro Castle lighthouse, entered service on January 1, 1846. Its first keepers were Manuel Soto and Narciso Sánchez, both recently arrived from Cuba, and whom like all other keepers of this lighthouse, lived in the adjacent city and not in the fort. The lighthouse was built on the bastion closest to the bay entrance (Austria Bastion) and consisted of an octagonal brick base, an octagonal iron tower, and a lantern equipped with five lamps and an equal number of parabolic reflectors. Its visibility from the northeast was not optimal and because of this, and other problems, the lighthouse was disassembled moved to the bastion closest to the sea (Ochoa bastion), where it entered service on April 1, 1876, this time painted dark-gray and white, the same colors it has today.

     The lighthouse was equipped with a new lantern and a third-order Fresnel lens which projected its light 18 miles away. The bombardment of El Morro in 1898 caused irreparable damage to the tower and the lantern. In 1899 the base was repaired, a new concrete tower was built, and a new lantern and lens were installed. In 1905 the tower developed a crack so large that it was decided to demolish it and build over the remains of the base the current brick lighthouse, which entered service in 1908. This 42-foot tall structure was equipped with another third-order lens which today projects its light 18 miles away. This lens, peculiar for not having top or bottom prisms, is the only original Fresnel lens used in the island. In 1932 the clock mechanism that rotated the lens was substituted by an electric motor and in 1962 the light was automated. The design of this lighthouse has been a source of controversy over the years, for some it is a beautiful structure and for others it is a discordant note in El Morro’s architecture.

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