Lighthouse buffs from around the country gathered at Georgia's historic Tybee Island Lighthouse to celebrate the completion of a twelve year long effort to restore the famous lighthouse, which has served mariners since 1772.
The 154 foot tall tower, which has survived hurricanes, a fire set by retreating Confederate troops in 1861, and an 1886 earthquake, has undergone a complete interior and exterior restoration costing nearly half a million dollars. Rusted cast iron, crumbling brick, rotten wood and broken glass has been transformed into a beautiful and historically accurate symbol of not only Georgia's rich maritime heritage, but America's. Even the exterior "day mark," which identifies one lighthouse from another, was changed back to the way it appeared between 1916 and 1964, to insure the utmost accuracy. A black lighthouse with a white center band now stands dramatically against the blue sky of this small barrier island just east of Savannah, Georgia.
The Tybee Island Historical Society, a volunteer based organization, has worked tirelessly over 12 long years to raise the funds to complete the restoration. Funds came from public and private groups, with a large boost from Harbour Lights and their Collectors Society. Even surviving children of the beacon's last Keeper, George Jackson, were active in fund raising.
International Chimney Corp. of Buffalo New York, the same company that is moving Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and previously moved Southeast Light, on Block Island Rhode Island, (plus numerous other lighthouse projects to its credit) was the general contractor in the restoration of Tybee Island Light.
They hired Scottish masons, Irish painters and local craftsmen to supplement their own skilled crew to face the many challenges of the project.
Numerous well-known lighthouse people, including Bill and Nancy Younger of Harbour Lights and lighthouse authors Bruce and Cheryl Roberts of the Outer Banks Lighthouse Preservation Society, were present at the official re-lighting ceremony.
The entire, very windy, day was filled with historic re-enactors depicting Tybee Island's colorful history. Live music performed by local musicians and horse drawn carriages added to the festivities. As the sun began to set, the great moment approached . . . sparks and smoke started spurting from atop the lighthouse (the pyrotechnics were added for special effects), and then, to the tune of "Amazing Grace," a Scottish Bag-Piper, in full costume, strolled around the lantern room's outer galley billowing out his music. And then the big moment came. With the help of Grace Jackson Weaver, daughter of the last keeper of the lighthouse, the switch was thrown and the beacon from atop Tybee Island's lighthouse was lit again.
To learn more about the Tybee Island Lighthouse or to join the Tybee Island Historical Society, you can contact them at P.O. Box 366, Tybee Island, GA 31328.
This story appeared in the
April 1999 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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