Last week Tom and I took a day to explore the island around us. One of the must-see places on the island is the St Simons Lighthouse run by the Coastal Georgia Historical Society.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the St Simons Lighthouse was originally built by James Gould in 1810. The United States was a new country and was building a navy. It needed lighthouses along the coast so inlets could be safely navigated. The original lighthouse was 85 feet tall, made of tabby and brick, and lighted by several oil lamps. Even though it was taller than anything around, the oil lamps were not very bright.
During the Civil War Confederate troops occupied St Simons Island for a time. The coastal areas, however, were hard to defend against the United States Navy, and the island soon fell into Union hands. Before they left, however, the Confederates destroyed the Gould lighthouse. They did not want the Union to be able to use it for navigation.
St Simons Lighthouse was replaced after the war. The new (current) lighthouse is 104 feet tall and made out of brick. The lighthouse light is a third-order, biconvex Fresnel lens and is one of 70 still in use today. A 129 step staircase leads to the observation rail at the top.
Tom and I bought our tickets in the Coastal Georgia Historical Society building ($12 each), watched the orientation movie, and then entered the Keeper’s House. The first floor of the Keeper’s House is a museum about the St Simons Lighthouse. There is an excellent and informative display on Fresnel lenses. Upstairs, the Keeper’s House is set up as if the family is living there in the last 1800’s. There are two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a parlor.
After reading everything in the museum, Tom and I headed up the 129 stairs. St Simons Lighthouse has a landing every 20 stairs with a window and some fun facts. They also tell you how many stairs you still have to go! We reached the top without any problem and the view was spectacular. Tom and I could see everywhere on St Simons Island, into Brunswick, and all of the surrounding islands.
We enjoyed our visit to St Simons Lighthouse. It is definitely one of the places we will recommend to people who are visiting the island this year.