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Approval for the state's purchase of the Morris Island Lighthouse sends a positive signal - a figurative beaming beacon - that a priceless piece of South Carolina's past will be preserved.
That approval came at a meeting of the S.C. Budget and Control Board last week. Now Save the Light Inc. can sign the deed of transfer to certify ownership by the state, which will lease the lighthouse to that non-profit organization for 99 years.
The state agreed to take title to the lighthouse so the structure would be eligible for federal and state grants for its stabilization and restoration. Save the Light Co-Chairman Robert New told our reporter Arlie Porter that South Carolina's ownership status qualifies the lighthouse for more than $1 million in federal funding and $500,000 in state funding.
But the Morris Island Lighthouse won't be saved by government appropriations alone. As Mr. New said: "We need to raise millions of dollars, and this is where it will truly be a cooperative effort between the federal, state and local governments, and local citizens." Built in 1876 on dry land, the lighthouse long ago was surrounded by water on all sides as erosion took its toll on Morris Island. It appeared bound for ocean-battered oblivion before Save the Light came to its rescue. The grass-roots group bought the lighthouse from a Columbia businessman for $75,000 last year, and has raised $250,000 for its restoration.
Deemed worthy of protection by the S.C. Heritage Trust Advisory Board last summer, the lighthouse was placed on a list of sites the state should acquire. That purchase now will be made. It will not only protect the lighthouse, it should give welcome impetus to the ongoing effort to protect historically and environmentally rich Morris Island from development.
Towering 158 feet above the waves, the Morris Island Lighthouse is a National Historic Landmark that will continue to represent an irreplaceable part of South Carolina's maritime heritage. The state government, following the timely lead of Save the Light, has acted wisely to preserve this enduring treasure. Mr. New put it well when he identified the lighthouse's "proper owner" as "the people of South Carolina."