The first lighthouse built to aid navigation into the busy port of Charleston was constructed by the British colony of South Carolina just after the French and Indian War. The corner stone of the lighthouse was imprinted with the sentence, "The first stone of this beacon was laid on the 30th of May, 1767 in the seventh year of his Majesty's Reign, King George the III." At that time, this was the only major lighthouse built in the southeastern United States.
In 1800, repairs to the structure were needed, so Congress appropriated $5,000 to repair the lighthouse. However, in 1837, the old tower needed to be replaced and a new tower was built on what was known at that time as Lighthouse Island. This lighthouse stood 102 feet in height, and was fitted with a first-order Fresnel lens in 1858. The lighthouse remained in active service until the civil war, when confederate soldiers darkened the light and destroyed the tower to keep it from being used by the Union army.
In 1876 construction began on the new tower. This new tower was to be built on the site of the original colonial tower. After two years of construction, the lighthouse was finally completed and lit for active duty on October 1, 1876. At a height of 158 feet, the Morris Island Lighthouse housed a first-order Fresnel lens. Around 1892, the tower was painted black with horizontal white bands to make it more distinguishable from the other lighthouses of the area.
To visit the Morris Island Lighthouse, take Hwy. 17 to Hwy. 171. Continue on 171 until it dead ends at the stop light on Folly Beach. Make a left and drive until the road ends. There is a small public beach access on the right just before the road ends where you can park. From this point, walk over to where the road dead-ends, and go past the barrier and take the path that leads to the beach for a good view of the lighthouse. ***Make sure you take something to drink with you if you are going in the summer. Also, if your camera will atttach to a tripod, take it. The tripod will greatly improve your photos.***
In 1962, the duty of marking the harbor entrance was passed onto the Sullivan's Island Lighthouse, located on the north side of the harbor entrance. The Coast Guard decided that the tower on Morris Island would be demolished. However, a local citizens group fought to save it, but not before the first-order Fresnel lens was sold at auction. All that remains of the lens is on display in the base of the Hunting Island lighthouse. The tower was saved from demolition and a non-profit organization, Save The Light Inc., is conducting the effort to save the tower from the sea. If you would like to help in the effort to save this beautiful and historic piece of American History, please visit the official home page of the lighthouse by clicking the link above.
Today, the lighthouse remains closed to the public for obvious reasons. Boat tours are offered out of Charleston and the surrounding area for those who would like to get an up close view of the structure. The best view of the lighthouse from land is from the northern end of Folly Beach, which is the vantage point for my photo (see directions below). Folly Beach also is a great place to collect shells (if you know what time of year to be there) and is a favorite vacation spot for many. We have visited this light several times and it is one of our favorites and is a must see for any lighthouse enthusiast!