~ brief history — 1962 ~

1938  <  History  >  1999


The Morris Island Lighthouse is decommissioned and replaced by the new Sullivan's Island Lighthouse. In 1965, the lighthouse is sold to a private citizen by the Federal Government as surplus property.

On June 15, 1962, the light was extinguished at the Morris Island Lighthouse and the operation of the Sullivans Island Lighthouse began. In June 1962, Lt. Commander E. R. Tindle of the Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington announced that there were no plans for dismantling the Morris Island Lighthouse. He stated, "So long as she remains in reasonably good shape structurally, we will let her stand." In a sharp reversal of position, the Coast Guard, in February 1965, ordered the demolition of the lighthouse and allocated $20,000 for the project. It was rumored that a Georgia Congressman wanted the bricks from the lighthouse tower! Captain Julian J. Shingle of the Charleston Port Coast Guard Station confirmed that he had been notified of the plans to demolish the Morris Island Lighthouse. Further, Captain Shingle announced that the lens and acetylene components of the lamp were to be removed and placed in a national park in California.

In Charleston the reaction to this announcement was both predictable and swift. The community expressed its concern in petitions and letters. William McG. Morrison, Jr., of the Preservation Society of Charleston, petitioned the Coast Guard to allow the lighthouse to stand. Defending its decision to demolish the tower, the Coast Guard posted 12 x 4 foot signs at the lighthouse marked, "Danger, Keep Off. Tower in danger of collapse. Trespassers will be prosecuted."

Senator Strom Thurmond and Representative L. Mendel Rivers filed separate requests urging the Coast Guard to reconsider plans to demolish the Morris Island Lighthouse. Both Thurmond and Rivers noted that no engineering study had been conducted to determine that the tower was a hazard and there was no eminent danger of collapse of the tower. Mr. Rivers said his office received an average of 10 letters per day for more than a month.

Mr. Morrison announced that the Preservation Society would seek ownership of the lighthouse. In his announcement, he states, "This 89 year old structure has long been a landmark to this historic city. If, after further consideration of your plan, it is determined that the Coast Guard cannot maintain ownership and responsibility of this historic structure, then we urge you to consider transferring title to our organization for the purpose of preserving this historic monument for our community." The Coast Guard announced that the demolition would be suspended until the possible transfer of the lighthouse to the Preservation Society was investigated.

A month later, the Preservation Society said it did not have the financial resources to maintain the lighthouse. Mr. Morrison, confirming the Preservation Society Board vote, said, "The Society is not set up to acquire properties for preservation, but rather is designed to stimulate the interest of others in the acquisition and preservation of distinctive properties." Representative Rivers then asked the National Park Service to take the Morris Island Lighthouse, but was turned down.

1938  <  History  >  1999