The Sabine Bank Lighthouse, first lit on March 15, 1906, was a rare case of a caisson “sparkplug” type lighthouse erected in open waters. Located 15 miles or so off the Louisiana-Texas border and the entrance to the Sabine River, the remote location of the lighthouse helped make it historically important. But its remoteness was also its downfall. In recent years the lighthouse was so dilapidated that it had become dangerous for U.S. Coast Guard Aids to Navigation teams to enter the structure.
The expense of maintaining the deteriorating cast iron tower so far offshore became prohibitively expensive for the Coast Guard, and no community or group stepped forward in its defense. Restoring or moving the lighthouse would certainly have cost more than any potential savior could afford, and may have been physically unfeasible. After consulting with all the proper historical authorities, the Coast Guard made the decision to “reconfigure” the light, meaning the replacement of the lighthouse structure above the caisson with an automatic light on a steel skeleton tower.
Astron General Contracting of Jacksonville, North Carolina, was contracted by the Coast Guard for the Sabine Bank reconfiguration. The same company has renovated Michigan’s Grand Haven South Pierhead Lighthouse and Alligator Reef Lighthouse in Florida. In fact, lighthouses are a passion of company owner Panagiotis “Pete” Hadiaris, who says he hopes that Astron will be involved in many restorations to come.
Astron General Contracting proved up to the difficult task at Sabine Bank despite bad weather that delayed the project. The job also entailed the repair of the caisson foundation. The crew discovered two previously unseen major cracks in the caisson, and at this writing the project is delayed as Coast Guard engineers and engineers hired by Astron decide how to best proceed.
The lantern from the lighthouse has been moved to shore and Astron has donated it to the historical society in Sabine Pass. It will eventually be on display for the public. The old third order Fresnel lens from the lighthouse has been on display for some years at the Gulf Coast Museum in Port Arthur, Texas.
The light will continue as an aid to navigation, but the old “Sparkplug of the Gulf,” which stood through 96 years of everything nature could throw at it, will be missed.
This story appeared in the
July 2002 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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