Restoring the light: Morris Island Lighthouse will be lit Oct. 1 for first time in years
MORRIS ISLAND, S.C. (WCIV) —
ABC News 4 is bringing you a very special look at a mysterious, almost untouchable landmark. The light no longer shines atop the Morris Island Lighthouse, but it will soon light up the night sky again.
It’s still a fixture on the horizon, like a living postcard. The lighthouse shut down more than 50 years ago and is now threatened by the tides that rise around its base.
At 140-years-old, it’s weathered and worn, cracked and corroded. It takes quite an effort just to reach the keepers door.
Al Hitchcock is with the Save the Light organization. The Folly Beach resident has always loved the lighthouse.
“It’s hope, people coming in, they go ‘wow, there’s hope, there’s a light, I now know where to go’,” Hitchcock said.
Inside the tower, 203 steps wrap through darkness. Along the way, cast iron stairs are snapped and broken. Only one person at a time can climb from one landing to the next.
“It’s extremely dangerous to try and climb up in it, so I don’t think the public will ever be able to go up inside it,” said Hitchcock. “Once you’re inside, the biggest danger then is don’t break a step.”
From top to bottom, the lighthouse shows cracks from the 1886 Charleston Earthquake.
Save the Light board member Denis Blyth said even though it’s sitting on a newly restored foundation, the structure still leans. It’s one of the things engineers are monitoring.
“We’re re-establishing all of this that tells us if this crack begins to grow,” said Blyth.
Its walls are vulnerable to more than just mother nature and time. Blyth said over the years, before the lighthouse was locked, people would go inside, spray graffiti and take ornamental items as keepsakes.
“There were vandals that would come and take the hinges and things of that nature,” he said.
The stunning architectural bones remain and so does the 360-degree view from the top — a view very few have seen.
“Folly Beach to the south, Port of Charleston to the north and Sullivan’s and Isle of Palms. It’s gorgeous,” said Blyth. “The deepest natural channel in Charleston lay just off us here, directly off shore here.”
The lighthouse once a powerful and trusted navigational tool, manned by a lighthouse keeper and two assistants. 15 homes sat on the same property and one was connected to the entry door through a hallway.
“Originally it was lard oil,” said Blyth. “They would carry two buckets of lard oil each up and replenish the light.”
The lighthouse has been in the dark for decades, but SCE&G engineers like Justin Cromer have devised a way to make it light up again, using 12-volt batteries, 10 LED lights and a solar panel.
“We’ve got a solar panel charging it up and solar power just to keep it charged up,” Cromer said. “The batteries do the heavy lifting.”
With the touch of a cellphone, Cromer said they will help bring it back to life. The public is invited to join a special ceremony on Saturday, October 1 at 7 p.m.
“The lights will sequentially light up so it will appear as if you have a turning lighthouse,” he said.
It’s a piece of the past, reinvented. It’s history worth saving.