Pensacola is the second oldest city in Florida. Unlike St. Augustine, Pensacola was slow to highlight its ties to Spain, France and England. Five flags have flown over Pensacola. Spain three times, France, England, the Confederate States of America and the United States. When the United States acquired Pensacola from Spain the Florida Legislature petitioned for a federal naval depot at Pensacola. It was soon determined that a lighthouse was needed. In 1823 before a lighthouse could be built a lightship was sent from New Orleans. The lightship Aurora Borealis was on site by June, but problems arose and the ship failed to provide a proper navigation aide. The U. S. government designated Pensacola the site of a navy yard. Workers built a 40 foot lighthouse on a 40 foot bluff at the south entrance to Pensacola Bay. It was first lit in 1825. This was the first lighthouse built by the U. S. government on Florida's Gulf coast. The Mobile light 40 miles away created confusion for mariners. In 1858 engineers erected a new tower on the north side of the bay's entrance. This existing tower was first lit on January 1, 1859 providing the harbor the necessary beacon. Confederate soldiers shot out the light and it remained dark until 1863 when a fourth order lens re lit the tower. During the Civil War the tower was completely white but today the upper part is black.
In 1914 the federal government establish in Pensacola its first training base for naval aviators. Now known as the cradle of naval aviation the base has occasionally suggested that the tower be razed as it presents a hazard for the low flying planes. Local sentiment has caused the Navy to preserve the lighthouse. The Naval Station is also home to the Naval Aviation Museum and also to the Blue Angels. Admission to base is allowed and their is no charge for visiting the museum. The museum has a gift shop and a cafe. Allow at least four hours for the Naval Museum. A very pleasant day can easily be spent on the base.