Morris Island Lighthouse – Charleston, South Carolina
South Carolina | SC Picture Project | Charleston County Photos | Morris Island Lighthouse
The Morris Island Lighthouse, located just off the northern coast of Folly Beach, proudly guards the Charleston Harbor. When it was built in 1876, the lighthouse stood almost a mile inland – it now stands in the Atlantic Ocean, leaning casually to one side.
Many people love the lighthouse and have worked hard over the years to protect it. Save the Light, a local grassroots organization, raised money to buy the lighthouse from its former owner in 1999. The Morris Island Lighthouse is now owned by the state of South Carolina, but Save the Light continues to lead the way for its restoration and preservation.
Restoration efforts thus far have been threefold. First, the US Army Corps of Engineers built a steel cofferdam (enclosure) around the lighthouse’s base. Second, large stones were placed in a circle surrounding the cofferdam to prevent further erosion. Finally, in 2010, new pilings were installed to stabilize the foundation.
Morris Island itself is accessible only by boat, but the lighthouse is visible from many of Charleston’s coastal communities.
Today a tiny and fragile island under constant threat of development, Morris Island was once home to at least 15 buildings, including three Italianate cottages, a small schoolhouse, and numerous barns and other outbuildings.
The small village was connected to the back of the island by a long, wooden walkway. Many lighthouse keepers and their families lived there over the years. (See Jim Booth’s painting, Carolina Legacy, at the bottom of this page for an idea of how the island once looked.)
The first lighthouse on the island stood just 42-feet tall and was erected in 1762. Its 1838 replacement stood 60 feet taller and featured a revolving light. During the Civil War, the Confederate army destroyed the structure to prevent Union troops from using it as a lookout tower.
The US government replaced it immediately after the war. This new Morris Island Lighthouse operated continually from 1876 until 1962, when it was decommissioned and replaced by a modern lighthouse on Sullivan’s Island.
If you would like to learn more about the lighthouse and its history, please visit Save the Light. You can also become a member, make a donation, buy merchandise, or purchase renowned artist Jim Booth’s painting, Carolina Legacy (shown below). Proceeds from all 400 prints in the Save the Light edition go directly towards the lighthouse’s protection and preservation. Here at SCIWAY, we are big fans of the lighthouse, so naturally we have a copy of this painting in our office! (Carolina Legacy used here by permission from Save the Light.)
Reflections on the Morris Island Lighthouse
Mark VanDyke says of his photo: “My initial instinct with the Morris Island Lighthouse was similar to others who visit with camera in hand , would imagine: bring out the longer glass to pull the subject in – lend as much power in the composition as is possible for a tall and slender structure and create the imposing feeling that a beacon at sea should have. But that’s not really the story at Folly Beach and the Morris Island Lighthouse as I saw it and experienced it. The Morris Island Lighthouse is small in comparison to its surroundings. The Atlantic Ocean and the Charleston Harbor surround and dominate the lighthouse’s immediate base. The beaches nearby are strewn with jetties, pilings, rocks and other man-made hard-erosion structures. The Morris Island Lighthouse is just plain small in comparison to its surroundings. The structure itself begs the story of, ‘How did this happen?’ And so, I went against my instincts as a photographer, pulled out the wide-angle lens, and got my feet wet working with what was around me! The result – a very small lighthouse in an otherwise very large and expansive environment…my own interpretation of this place.”
SCIWAY visitor Laura Beane explains part of the lighthouse’s lure: “I have visited and photographed many lighthouses, but no other light has captivated me more than this one. She stands majestically at the entrance of the Charleston harbor. After visiting this lighthouse I can see and feel why this is such a beloved landmark to South Carolina and those who visit.”
Photographer Mark Wickliffe tells us about capturing the image he contributed to this page: “It was during a gorgeous summer storm at sunrise, with the Morris Island lighthouse in the distance.”
Morris Island Lighthouse Map
Morris Island Lighthouse Add Info and More Photos
The purpose of the South Carolina Picture Project is to celebrate the beauty of the Palmetto State and create a permanent digital repository for our cultural landmarks and natural landscapes. We invite you to add additional pictures (paintings, photos, etc) of Morris Island Lighthouse, and we also invite you to add info, history, stories, and travel tips. Together, we hope to build one of the best and most loved SC resources in the world!