Tybee Island Lighthouse


Tybee Island light is a lighthouse next to the Savannah River entrance on the northeast end of Tybee Island, Georgia.  It is one of seven surviving colonial era lighthouse towers although highly modified in the mid 1800s.  This is the tallest and oldest lighthouse in Georgia and one of Americans most complete historic light station complexes.  It has guided mariners safely into the Savannah River for close to 300 years.  Still a functioning navigational aid, the stations light has a first order Fresnel lens , which can be seen 18 miles offshore.

The current lighthouse is the fourth tower at this station, and the first that was lit.  The first tower was constructed out of wood in 1736 ordered by General James Oglethorpe Governor of the 13th colony.  The light house was felled by a storm in 1741.  The second lighthouse was constructed out of wood and stone and was topped with a flag pole.  This tower succumbed to shoreline erosion.  The third tower was constructed in 1773 by John Mullryne a brick tower originally 100 ft high.  It was first fitted with reflectors and candles but upgraded to oil lamps after it was ceded to the federal government in 1790.  A second tower was added to the site in 1822 to form a range.  Both towers received Fresnel lenses in 1857.  Confederate forces burned the lighthouse in 1862 during the Civil war and removed the lens as they retreated to Fort Pulaski.  IMG_9085

A new tower was constructed atop the first 60 ft. of the old tower, raising the height to 154 feet and 178 steps.  The walls of the tower are over 12 feet thick at the base and taper to approximately 18 inches at the top.  This is a picture of the original brick section.

IMG_0240This tower was equipped with a 1st order Fresnel lens.   The lens is so large that a family of four can fit inside.   The Tybee light has two 1,000 watt bulbs.  When one burns out the light automatically switches over to the new bulb.  They never turn off the light.   The main tower was severely damaged in a hurricane in 1871, instead of repairing it a new front tower was constructed of iron.

These are pictures inside the lighthouse.  The 178 steps were put in place one at a time and rotated into position.  There were three assistants keepers and they took turns carrying the fuel up the stairs with each one having so many steps to walk.

New keepers dwellings were constructed in 1881 and 1885.  These are some old pictures that I saw of the keepers. The single picture is of keeper George Jackson 1933-1948. Before the lighthouse was converted to electricity in 1933 three light keepers were required to man the Light Station.

This cottage is a stick style architecture with wood lap siding.  It was built with an attached summer kitchen to keep heat out of the house in the summer.  The porch was enclosed in 1907 to create the bathroom.  Electricity was installed in 1916.


The summer kitchen was built-in 1812 and used by all of the keepers and their families.  Cooking away from the main houses ment less chance of fire and less added heat in the house during summer.  The kitchen was used until 1910.


The 2nd assistant keepers cottage is believed to be built of the old confederate barracks built-in 1861.  This wooden house replaced the old wooden house which burned in 1884.  In 1886 the tower was shaken by Charleston earthquake which damaged the lens and caused cracking of the brickwork, these were immediately repaired.  In 1933 the tower was electrified and the station reduced to a single keeper the beacon was automated in 1972.


This was the fuel station.  The keepers made frequent trips to the top of the lighthouse carrying fuel in large pails.  Now it look like it holds other types of fuel for thirsty tourist.


Throughout its life the day mark of the tower has had six-day marks since 1867. Originally all white, the base and lantern were painted black in 1887 this was altered in 1914 and again in 1916, each time bringing the black at the top further down the tower until the illustrated configuration was reached.  Mariners recognize a lighthouse during the day by its paint pattern, one of the characteristics of its day mark.

Kent walked to the top of the lighthouse and this is what he saw.  Liz walked up a few steps but came back down.  Johnny and I didn’t even try, I could walk up the stairs but don’t like coming down, I feel like I am falling.

While on Tybee Island we also saw what is left of Fort Screven first commissioned in 1899.  The fort was named for Brigadier General James Screven a Revolutionary war hero who was killed in action new Midway Georgia in 1778.  The fort served as a valuable part of coastal defense until it decommissioned in 1947.  Very little remains of the fort.  They have the battery garland house and a museum.

The museum is filled with history of Fort Screven, Tybee island, and other show cases that display models of that era.  Take note of the one with the swimming suits.  Back then you got your money’s worth in material when you bought a suite.  Other buildings have been restored, the guard-house, the bakery (now a private home) and barracks ( now apartments).  Now how cool would that be to live in a barrack as your home.

We had lunch at the North Shore off the beach they served  good home-made hamburgers. We walked down to the beach but didn’t go on the beach as the strong winds caused the breeze off the ocean to be cold.  We took a taxi back to the marina the driver had a two month old shih tzu puppy.  She asked us if it was ok to have the dog along and I said yes as long as I could hold it.  Her name is Gracie and I got my dog fix for the next 16 miles.  She would have easily fit in my backpack.

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