National Lighthouse Day: Charleston’s iconic beacons of light

Local News

Morris Island Lighthouse (Library of Congress; Highsmith, Carol M., 1946-, photographer) and Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Two iconic lighthouses serve as beacons of history along the Charleston, South Carolina coast.

Congress passed an act which protects all lighthouses, beacons, and buoys on August 7, 1789; and to celebrate the 200th anniversary of that signing, and the commissioning of the first Federal lighthouse, members of Congress approved a resolution that designated August 7, 1989, as National Lighthouse Day.

These essential structures serve as navigation during dark nights and stormy days, warning mariners of dangerous areas and protecting their navigation along the coast.

Construction of the Morris Island Lighthouse, which sits just north of Folly Beach, was completed in 1876 – the structure was nearly destroyed by a hurricane in 1885 and damaged by the great Charleston earthquake in 1886.

But its biggest threat has always been erosion. According to FollyBeach.com, jetties were created in 1889 to protect shipping lanes and caused natural erosion to intensify.

The lighthouse would later become automated in 1938 due to encroaching water, and by 1962 the lighthouse was so close to the shore that it was ordered to be closed by state officials.

It was replaced by another now-iconic structure, the Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse, also known as the Charleston Light. One of the last major lighthouses to be built in the United States.

Located on Ion Ave, the construction of the Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse began in 1960 and was completed in 1962. It was originally painted in white and bright orange, but the tower was repainted to the white and black you see today after complaints from the surrounding community.

According to SullivansIsland.com, the lighthouse shoots out a beam that consists of a 0.2-second flash, and a 24.8-second eclipse.

It is checked and maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard while the National Park Service works to ensure the light maintains standing and keeps its place as a historic structure.

While the lighthouse is fenced off and not open to the public, visitors are invited to explore the surrounding area during the day.

For decades, groups have been working to preserve the historic Morris Island Lighthouse through an effort called ‘Save the Light;’ you can learn about their efforts and contribute by visiting savethelight.org.

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