Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse – Sullivan's Island, South Carolina
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Pictured in the distance is the Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse. The last in the United States to be built by the Coast Guard, the lighthouse is located on Sullivan’s Island, just north of Charleston. Marked by its two-toned paint scheme, this 140-foot structure keeps watch over the Charleston Harbor with the aid of two rotating beacons that can be seen 26 nautical miles away. The triangular structure of the lighthouse allows the tower to sustain hurricane force winds up to 125 miles per hour – an important feature for the South Carolina coast.
The modern lighthouse was completed in 1962 as a replacement for the Morris Island Lighthouse, which was officially decommissioned that same year. The new lighthouse was erected on the property of the Sullivan’s Island United States Coast Guard Station, established in 1891. The boathouse seen below was built in 1891 as part of the station and once stored rescue boats for the United States Coast Guard.
While most people probably do not give a second thought to its familiar black-and-white paint scheme, the lighthouse was originally painted orange-and-white, to the chagrin of locals. The lighthouse’s top orange portion was later painted black, as it appears today. In 2008 the United States Coast Guard transferred ownership go the lighthouse to the National Parks Service.
The Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse and surrounding buildings, including the boathouse, are listed in the National Register as part of the U.S. Coast Guard Historic District:
The Sullivan’s Island Coast Guard Station is the oldest extant life saving installment on the South Carolina Coast. Shortly after the Civil War, the Federal government recognized its obligation for the personal safety of citizens in the port area of Charleston with the establishment of the now defunct Morris Island Station. When the main shipping channel into Charleston was altered about twenty years later, the citizens of the immediate area indicated their reciprocal acceptance of that principle. In 1891 the nearby summer village of Moultrieville deeded five acres of land to the United States government for the express purpose of establishing a life saving station and again in 1896 an additional acre to compensate for loss of land by erosion. All of the contributing properties in the district are located behind the primary dune. The station house/administration building (ca. 1891), boathouse (ca. 1891), garage (ca. 1938), and signal tower (ca. 1938) are laid out in an L-shaped court loosely organized around the bunker/sighting station (ca. 1898). The non-contributing lighthouse (ca. 1962) lies nearest the ocean.
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