South Carolina Lighthouses
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South Carolina Lighthouses
South Carolina is home to 11 lighthouses, but only two of them continue to function as official, working navigational guides. The Georgetown Lighthouse (located on North Island) and the Charleston Light (located on Sullivan's Island) are both active and operated by the US Coast Guard.
There are three other lighthouses that still shine. Two are facsimiles – the Harbour Island Lighthouse (located on Hilton Head Island) and the Governor's Lighthouse (located in Little River) – and one is privately-owned. That lighthouse – Haig Point – stands on Daufuskie Island, where its light now serves primarily as a decoration. Sadly, the other five lighthouses, all of which are historic, no longer work.
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Active Lighthouses in South Carolina
- Georgetown Lighthouse
Also called the North Island Light, this historic beacon stands on North Island at the mouth of Winyah Bay where it still serves as a working navigational guide. It has been unmanned since 1968 when the US Coast Guard took over its operations and automated its lighting mechanism. It is the oldest active lighthouse in South Carolina, dating from 1811.
- Charleston Lighthouse
This modern tower guides boats, tankers, and cruise ships to the mouth of the Charleston Harbor. It stands on Sullivan's Island, to the east of peninsular Charleston, and is often referred to as the Sullivan's Island Lighthouse as well.
- Harbour Town Lighthouse
Privately owned by a Hilton Head resort, this lighthouse is not historic but serves as a local landmark nevertheless. It is short in stature compared to other South Carolina lighthouses and is surrounded by shops and a marina. It is called a facsimile lighthouse because it does not serve as a navigational aid.
- Governor's Lighthouse
Located in Little River, South Carolina, the Governor's Lighthouse was commissioned in 1984 by Governor Richard Riley. This small, aptly-named lighthouse was built to honor all South Carolina governors, past and present. Despite its official origins, it was built by a private contractor, not the government, and it is located in a residential neighborhood. Like Harbor Island Lighthouse, it also is a facsimile.
- Haig Point Lighthouse
Although Daufuskie Island's Haig Point Lighthouse is no longer maintained by the US Coast Guard, it was constructed by the government as a working lighthouse. In fact, it is quite historic, dating from 1873 when it was first lit. This lighthouse is unusual in South Carolina because its tower and the caretakers's house form a single structure – a design which is reminiscent of northern lighthouses and resembles a home with a large column jutting out of its roofline. The lighthouse is now owned by a private community and is serves as an event site.
Inactive Lighthouses in South Carolina
- Cape Romain Lighthouses
Located on Lighthouse Island within the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, these two historic lighthouses sit side-by-side six miles offshore from McClellanville. For years they served to alert boats to a nearby sandbar. The smaller, red brick lighthouse was constructed in 1827 and is 65 feet tall. Unfortunately, it did not have a very strong light and wasn't able to warn ships effectively. A new 150-foot tower, equipped with a Fresnel lens, was built next to the old lighthouse in 1857. The latter was decommissioned in 1957, and both lighthouses are currently closed to the public. The troublesome sandbar is now well marked with buoys.
- Morris Island Lighthouse
The Morris Island Lighthouse, located just off the northern coast of Folly Beach, once guarded the entrance to Charleston Harbor. When it was built in 1876, the lighthouse stood almost a mile inland – it now stands in the Atlantic Ocean, leaning precariously to one side. The old lighthouse is owned by the State of South Carolina, but a local nonprofit called Save the Light is working with the Army Corps of Engineers to restore and stabilize the beloved landmark.
- Hunting Island Lighthouse
The first lighthouse on Hunting Island was built in 1859 but destroyed during the Civil War. A second tower was constructed in 1875 and remained active until 1933. Currently, the Hunting Island Lighthouse is the only historic lighthouse in South Carolina that allows visitors to climb to the top. Within the lighthouse are 167 steps that take visitors to a breathtaking view of the island 132 feet in the air. It is located within Hunting Island State Park.
- Leamington Lighthouse
The Leamington Lighthouse, standing on Hilton Head Island, is the only rear range lighthouse in South Carolina. It stretches 95 feet into the air and at one time had a counterpart whose light lined up with its own to mark safe passage for seafarers. Sadly the lighthouse did not function long as shifting sands caused the channel to move; it was replaced by a mobile device in 1884. The former lightkeeper's house has been moved to Harbor Town Marina.
- Bloody Point Lighthouse
Like the Leamington Lighthouse above, Daufuskie Island's Bloody Point Lighthouse was a range light. Bloody Point differed from Leamington, however, in that its rear light was a skeletal tower but its front light was located in the upstairs window of the caretaker's residence. Today, that residence is all that remains. By 1899, erosion had become significant enough that the US Lighthouse Service, which predated the US Coast Guard in the maintenance of our country's lighthouses, moved the house 4,350 feet inland from its original position on the beach. At that time, the front light was taken out of the house. The Lighthouse Service relocated the former beacon of the Venus Point Range and this served as the rear light's new partner until Bloody Point was decommissioned in 1921.
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