Bring Back the Light

The lighthouse on North Island is the oldest operating lighthouse in South Carolina and one of the oldest operating lighthouses in the United States. The eighty-foot conical brick tower was completed in 1812, replacing a 72-foot cypress lighthouse that was built in 1801 and destroyed by a storm in 1806. Until 1854, whale oil fueled lamps and reflectors generated a fixed all-around white light and guided ships at sea across Winyah Bay’s shallow bar on their way to Georgetown. In 1854, the lamps and reflectors were replaced by a much more efficient Fresnel lens, which burned less oil and cast its beam further out to sea. During the Civil War, the lighthouse was damaged and the lens destroyed. In 1867, the lighthouse was repaired and a new Fresnel lens was installed and remained in operation for 120 years, until the light was automated by the United States Coast Guard in 1986.

The removed Fresnel lens is presently located in the lobby of the USCG 7th District headquarters building in Miami, Florida. In 2012, the South Carolina Maritime Museum applied to the USCG artifact collections curator to bring the lens back to South Carolina. In January, 2014, the South Carolina Maritime Museum finally received approval from the USCG to display the lens in the museum in Georgetown. The cost of transporting, protecting and displaying the historic and fragile 300-pound reflective glass lens is significant. The South Carolina Maritime Museum has established  The Friends of the Lens  fund where donations can  be made to help the museum “Bring Back the Light”.

Please help bring this beautiful lens back home to Georgetown to be displayed at the S.C. Maritime Museum where it can be viewed and enjoyed by the general public. The cost to move, exhibit and insure the lens will be $10,000. Please make a donation online HERE or send a donation payable to the SC Maritime Museum to:

The SC Maritime Museum
PO Box 2228
Georgetown, SC 29442

The SC Maritime Museum is operated by the Harbor Historical Association (HHA), a 501(c)(3) organization.  All contributions will be recognized on the Friends of the Lens donor page of this website.

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