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History of the Morris Island Lighthouse

The lighthouse has rich history that spans 200+ years.

The red and white Morris Island Lighthouse on the shores of Folly Island

One of Charleston’s beloved landmarks.

Today, we explore one of Charleston’s most famous landmarks, the Morris Island Lighthouse.

Standing at 161 ft over the Charleston Harbor, right off of Folly Island, it is the tallest lighthouse in South Carolina and has become an iconic sight. Its resiliency shines brightly throughout the many changes it’s endured.

The History

Initially the first lighthouse was built at 42 ft in 1767. In the late 1800s, the lighthouse was destroyed during the Civil War and in 1876, a new 161-ft tower was completed for $149,993. The primary function was to provide straightforward navigation for ships + vessels.

The structure experienced effects from natural disasters, but the most significant threat was erosion. This problem was so bad that it became fully automated in 1938 and in 1962, state officials ordered its closing.

In 1965, it was sold to a private citizen and in 1982, it was named one of the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1999, a local grassroots nonprofit organization, Save the Light, bought the lighthouse. Its mission is to “save and preserve the Morris Island Lighthouse for the People of South Carolina.” The group continues to do work today.

How to visit

This lighthouse is beloved by both locals and tourists alike. Although this lighthouse is not open to the public or accessible by land, there are several ways to visit it by taking a trip to Morris Island, including the Lighthouse Inlet Heritage Preserve, Charleston Outdoors Adventures, and Adventure Island Tours among others.

If you have footage of the fantastic Charleston sight, tag us on Instagram.