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.

Morris Island Lighthouse Aerial

Larry Gleason, Aiken Aerial Photography, 2015 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

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.

Morris Island Lighthouse SC

James P. Karner of Rock Hill, 2012 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

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 Aerial

Larry Gleason, Aiken Aerial Photography, 2015 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Morris Island itself is accessible only by boat, but the lighthouse is visible from many of Charleston’s coastal communities.

Morris Island Groins

Mark VanDyke of Herndon, VA, 2014 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

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.

Folly Beach Lighthouse

Mark Wickliffe of Charleston, 2014 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

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.)

Folly Lighthouse

Mark Wickliffe of Charleston, 2014 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

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.

Morris Island Lighthouse Folly

Blake Lewis of Sumter, 2013 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

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.

Morris Island Sunset

Barry Gooch of Port Royal © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

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.)

Morris Island Lighthouse South Carolina

“Carolina Legacy” by Jim Booth of James Island © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

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.”

Add your own reflections here.

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!


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6 Comments about Morris Island Lighthouse

Mavis Watson Gibson says:
May 12th, 2015 at 4:06 pm

I am re painting a ceramic lighthouse that shaped and looks just like the Morris Island Ligthouse. it is so far away I can not see details good. The one I have has the U shape door but no windows. I wanted to get as close to the real thing as I could. I am asking permission to paint mine as close to your copy?

Mavis Watson GibsonNo Gravatar says:
May 12th, 2015 at 11:13 am

Hope this is the one I need to copy painting of the orgional copy. The lighthouse is a porcelain copy of a
a lighthouse. The Morris Island lighthouse is the closes to my copy. I am restoring the color as close as I can for a friend. Thanks

Richard Leander Beck says:
February 24th, 2015 at 9:54 pm

The Morris Island Lighthouse is owned by the Stat of South Carolina but cared for by Save The Light Inc. a non profit citizens group formed in 1999. Since out formation, we have raised and spent almost 5 million dollars in protecting the structure from erosion and placing a new foundation under it. We are actively raising money to rehab the lantern room as our next step in the tower's preservation. I hope that all of you will visit our web site at SAVETHELIGHT.ORG to become a member. We are holding out major fundraiser on the 26th of March at Folly Beach. Please contact us for tickets or to make a donation.

Norma ColemanNo Gravatar says:
April 28th, 2014 at 5:36 pm

Did the lighthouse ever have a rock walkway leading to it from shore? I remember seeing a lighthouse as a child with a walkway surrounded by water leading to a lighthouse that could have been this one. My parents sort of remember the same, but don’t remember where. I have been searching for it for the last 30 years. It would have to have been on the Atlantic coast in the mid-1950s.

Steve Holcombe, PhDNo Gravatar says:
February 24th, 2013 at 11:02 pm

Great pictures of Morris Island lighthouse. Looks good all the way from Tigerville, SC. Upper Greenville County’s Tigerville.

Dorene HarmonNo Gravatar says:
June 15th, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Gorgeous photos. I miss my SC beaches, so this is a nice way to be reminded. I like James P. Karner’s A LOT. Cool job all.






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