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Contact: Bill Martin, (843) 883-3123 x 38
Join the National Park Service as we celebrate National Lighthouse Day at the Sullivan's Island Light on Saturday, August 8, 2009. An open house special event takes place from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on the grounds of the US Coast Guard Historic District at 1815 I'On Avenue on Sullivan’s Island.
The Historic District represents the evolution of events important in United States maritime history from 1895 to 1962. Commissioned on June 15, 1962 as the last lighthouse to be built in the United States, the Sullivan's Island Lighthouse replaced the original Charleston harbor light (otherwise known as the Morris Island Lighthouse), which was built in 1876. Several unique features make this lighthouse stand out from others:
- Instead of having the traditional circular shape, it is three-sided, a feature meant to make it more wind resistant. The result is that it can withstand gusts up to 125 mph as demonstrated by its ability to hold up against Hurricane Hugo in 1989.
- It is the only lighthouse in the country to have both an elevator and siding.
- The light was the second brightest in the Western hemisphere with 28 million candlepower but was reduced to 1.5 million to accommodate Sullivan’s Island residents. It can still be seen 27 miles out to sea on clear nights.
The Coast Guard chose the location because of its historic importance as being the site of the only U.S. life-saving station in South Carolina. Plans are in the works to get the lighthouse specifically placed on the National Register as it was declared eligible for such nomination in 2007.
It was on August 7, 1789 that Congress passed an Act for the establishment and support of lighthouses, beacons, buoys and public piers. In honor of the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the first federal lighthouse, Congress designated August 7, 1989 as National Lighthouse Day. This recognition has encouraged communities and citizens groups to dedicate themselves to the preservation of these historic structures. As part of the anniversary, lighthouses, where feasible, were open to the public. “It is in the spirit of public access that park staff and volunteers invite the public to explore the grounds of the U.S. Coast Guard Historic District,” said Superintendent Bob Dodson.
The grounds, quarters' cupola and boat house will be open to the public from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 8. Because of safety concerns, only the base of the lighthouse will be open. A U.S. Coast Guard representative will speak about lighthouse maintenance at 11:00 a.m. The non-profit Save the Light organization will report on the progress of preserving the Morris Island Lighthouse. Refreshments will be served. All activities are free and open to the public. For more information, call the park at (843) 883-3123.