The Morris Island Lighthouse has been the Charleston Harbor most loyal sentinel for almost two centuries. If you’re a lucky Charleston vacationer do yourself a favor and go to Folly Beach to see this romantic lighthouse, a truly South Carolina legacy!
• Admission is free.
• You can park for free on each side of the road (on the grass) or use the metered-fee parking lots along the many public beach access pathways. My advice is to go early morning or late afternoon when the beach traffic is light.
• You will need to walk on foot about half a mile from the end of the road to the lighthouse viewing point on the beach.
• Get two in one, lighthouse and beach fun! Bring your beach gear and have a nice family outing at the most scenic beach spot in Charleston! Note there are no umbrellas, restrooms, food stands and drinking sources nearby. You’re pretty much on your own…
• Speaking of food, your best and cheapest source for snacks is the mini-mart, right pass the main intersection.
Morris Island Lighthouse Historic Facts (data compiled by the wonderful Save The Light website)
• In 1673, shortly after Charles Towne settlement was founded, a raised metal pan filled with pitch and set afire at night became the first navigation aid on Morris Island.
• In 1767, the first lighthouse built on Morris Island was 42 feet tall, had an octagonal shape and burned whale oil in lamps suspended from the dome’s interior.
The “Charleston Light” was one of ten lighthouses built in the colonies (all were extinguished during the Revolutionary War so as not to aid the British ships), and one of only two to survive the Revolutionary War.
A 1776 French navigational map shows the location of the Charleston Light on Middle Bay Island and warns about a very dangerous reef that “…if struck, you will sink immediately.”
• In 1838, a second 102 feet tall tower, fit with a revolving light, replaces the first lighthouse.
• In 1862, the lighthouse is destroyed by confederate troops at the start of the Civil War to prevent its use by Union troops as a lookout tower. By late April 1861, 164 lights from Virginia to Texas had been turned off. The only beacons still lit were along the Florida reefs “where even the local boat captains could not trust their instincts.”
• On October 1, 1876 the current Morris Island Lighthouse shines light for the first time.
• In 1938, the lighthouse is now at the water’s edge…originally it was 1200 feet onshore! The housing complex is dismantled and the lighthouse is automated on June 22.
• In 1962, the Morris Island Lighthouse is decommissioned and replaced by the new Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse.
• In 1999, the lighthouse is leased to Save The Light, Inc. for 99 years to coordinate the stabilization, erosion control and restoration of the lighthouse and to raise the necessary funds for that work. In 2007 Save The Light, Inc. begins the Morris Island Lighthouse preservation with the help of the Army Corps of Engineers.
Today Phase I - erosion control has been completed. Phase II – stabilization is next.
Visit www.savethelight.org and help save this maritime jewel!
While vacationing at Folly Beach make sure to visit:
• The 1,500 years old Angel Oak Tree on Johns Island
• Taste the sweetest and most aromatic tea in the country at the Charleston Tea Plantation on Wadmalaw Island
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Tags: Charleston Civil War historic sites, Charleston free things to do, Charleston Harbor landmarks, Charleston oldest monuments, Folly Beach attractions, John James Folly Beach free things to do, Morris island lighthouse photos, oldest lighthouses in America