Round Island Lighthouse, which was built in 1859 near Pascagoula, Mississippi, and had been deemed “destroyed” by Hurricane Georges in late September, 1998, has been reborn on land. Its new Fresnel lens was lighted on the evening of November 13, 2015 at its new home, within sight of the Pascagoula River.
It was the first time a light had shown at the top of the 50-foot lighthouse since March 20, 1944, when the U.S. Coast Guard discontinued it as a lighted beacon. The new 4th order 360 degree Fresnel lens was manufactured and installed by Dan Spinella of Artworks Florida Classic Fresnel Lenses LLC, as described in the July/August issue of Lighthouse Digest.
As much original material from the toppled lighthouse as possible was reused in the reconstruction of the upper section of the lighthouse, including the lantern gallery, which was rebuilt locally. A large section of the red brick structure, salvaged from Round Island in 1998 by volunteers, is now used as a sign for the lighthouse park surrounding the lighthouse. Bricks deemed unusable in the rebuilding of the structure are being sold as souvenirs.
The volunteer group, which had organized the summer before Hurricane Georges struck, in an effort to save the threatened lighthouse, adopted the name, Round Island Lighthouse Preservation Society, on November 19, 1998. For the next seven years, the group worked diligently with the City of Pascagoula (which owns the lighthouse) on the recovery of every brick or other piece of historical fabric it could find in the Mississippi Sound near the fallen lighthouse. It was eventually up-righted and secured on the island, and even more local volunteers planted grasses and sea oats continuously to keep the sand surrounding the lighthouse from drifting.
Meanwhile, the group sold T-shirts, mugs, and engraved bricks to be placed around the lighthouse, once it could be rebuilt on the island. Local artists donated artwork to be sold for the rebuilding process. As of March of 2001, the Society had raised $23,000 through memberships, the sale of T-shirts, coffee mugs and other merchandise.
However, Hurricane Katrina, which hit on August 29, 2005, bringing tidal surges of up to 30 feet in some places, seriously damaged the lighthouse again. Katrina also destroyed or flooded almost all of the homes of the active members of the preservation society, as well as much of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Now, instead, the group’s focus had to be on their own survival and the rebuilding of their homes.
City leaders soon decided to try to bring the lighthouse ashore to the mainland. Working loosely with Mississippi Archives and History and other state and federal agencies, and funded by grants and sponsorships, the city managed to do so in 2010. The structure was barged ashore and placed near U.S. Highway 90, a major state road that runs south of Interstate 10, mostly along the Mississippi Sound.
It took another five years to secure the base at its new home, rebuild the brick upper structure, construct a new lantern gallery, and lastly add a new Fresnel lens. The base of the lighthouse features a colorful compass rose and engraved bricks from donors, including those from 1998. More engraved bricks will be added as donations increase.
Following the relighting by local dignitaries on a cool fall evening, the 127-year old lighthouse was opened for tours. Many children and adults stood in line for over an hour that evening to tour the lighthouse, walking up the 42 wooden spiral steps to the top, and finally climbing up a metal ladder to go into the lantern gallery, where a spectacular view awaited.
The whitewashed brick structure now stands proudly, welcoming travelers into Pascagoula with its light. Future plans include a walkway to the riverfront. Tours may now be taken of the lighthouse on Fridays and Saturdays. Lighthouse passports are available from the tour guide.
For more info on the Round Island Light-house, visit www.RoundIslandLighthouse.org.
This story appeared in the
Jan/Feb 2016 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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