Pictured in the distance is the Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse. The last in the United States to be built by the Coast Guard, the lighthouse is located on Sullivan’s Island, just north of Charleston. Marked by its two-toned paint scheme, this 140-foot structure keeps watch over the Charleston Harbor with the aid of two rotating beacons that can be seen 26 nautical miles away. The triangular structure of the lighthouse allows the tower to sustain hurricane force winds up to 125 miles per hour – an important feature for the South Carolina coast.
The modern lighthouse was completed in 1962 as a replacement for the Morris Island Lighthouse, which was officially decommissioned that same year. The new lighthouse was erected on the property of the Sullivan’s Island United States Coast Guard Station, established in 1891. The boathouse seen below was built in 1891 as part of the station and once stored rescue boats for the United States Coast Guard.
While most people probably do not give a second thought to its familiar black-and-white paint scheme, the lighthouse was originally painted orange-and-white, to the chagrin of locals. The lighthouse’s top orange portion was later painted black, as it appears today. In 2008 the United States Coast Guard transferred ownership go the lighthouse to the National Parks Service.
The Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse and surrounding buildings, including the boathouse, are listed in the National Register as part of the U.S. Coast Guard Historic District:
The Sullivan’s Island Coast Guard Station is the oldest extant life saving installment on the South Carolina Coast. Shortly after the Civil War, the Federal government recognized its obligation for the personal safety of citizens in the port area of Charleston with the establishment of the now defunct Morris Island Station. When the main shipping channel into Charleston was altered about twenty years later, the citizens of the immediate area indicated their reciprocal acceptance of that principle. In 1891 the nearby summer village of Moultrieville deeded five acres of land to the United States government for the express purpose of establishing a life saving station and again in 1896 an additional acre to compensate for loss of land by erosion. All of the contributing properties in the district are located behind the primary dune. The station house/administration building (ca. 1891), boathouse (ca. 1891), garage (ca. 1938), and signal tower (ca. 1938) are laid out in an L-shaped court loosely organized around the bunker/sighting station (ca. 1898). The non-contributing lighthouse (ca. 1962) lies nearest the ocean.
More Pictures of the Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse
Reflections on the Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse
Photographer Christopher Neal of Florence shares the following about this beautiful photo he took: “I grabbed this shot on the last day of September last year. I was in Charleston trying to photograph the Milky Way before it slipped below the horizon for the winter and I couldn’t think of a better place to start than this Charleston lighthouse. I shot on the beach for an hour or so and as I left I got a few shots of the lighthouse doing it’s thing with the Milky Way in the background. I can’t wait for this fall to come down and do it again.”
Chuck Lemberger says
I was stationed here 1970 for two years. It was great duty; we maintained the light and the signal.
Anna M. Adair ( Penny) says
My DNA is in that light house. My dad was in the coast guard and we were always going up in it. I hated the grated floors – scared me to death. But the elevator was cool. It used to be red and white. Loved playing on the station grounds growing up. Use to get cardboard and slide down the big hill. It was our playground. So love this place.
Suzie Hyde says
When this lighthouse was put into service, the people of Sullivan’s Island were kept awake by the light shining into their bedrooms. This was corrected by a back shade on the shore side. I remember this from Suzannah Miles writing on the history of Sullivan’s Island. Please check to verify?
Brandon Edington says
This light is not open to the public, it is gated off. The inside has a unique setup; it has both air conditioning and an elevator. To my knowledge, the inside has never been open for the public, however, its light and the buliding itself are a sight to behold! Don’t let that stop you from coming to see it, and get some great photos!
Rick Gilstrap says
I proposed to my wife-to-be in 1979 on the beach in front of the lighthouse.
SC Picture Project says
How awesome, what a perfect place!
I am looking for someone who can paint the lighthouse on a mailbox. Any suggestions? Thanks!
Jim McGinnis says
Are tours of the light available? If so can you send me info? We will be in Georgetown the end of August/first part of September. Thank you in advance
Hello Jim, according to this website it does not appear to be open for tours of the inside but the exterior is easily visible. We recommend calling the number here to inquire further. Good luck and enjoy your trip! http://discoversouthcarolina.com/products/25671