Hunting Island State Park Lighthouse

Probably the most prominent feature of Hunting Island State Park is the lighthouse which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. One of eight light stations on the South Carolina coast, it is the only one open to the public. The climb to the top (167 steps) offers a spectacular view of the beach, surrounding waterways, other islands, and the Atlantic Ocean.

Hunting Island LighthouseLighthouse History

The first lighthouse on Hunting Island, originally constructed of brick in 1859, was built to guide vessels along the coast Spiral Staircasebetween Charleston and Savannah and into Port Royal Sound, an important deep-water coal and shipping port. It warned ships around the dangerous shoals, sandbars, and reefs along this stretch of the South Carolina coast. During the Civil War, Confederate soldiers destroyed the light station to prevent the Union Army from using it for navigation.

Reconstructed in 1875 with its distinctive black and white coloring, the new lighthouse was designed to be moved in case of barrier island erosion. A segmented, cast iron skeleton, lined with brick, allows the spiral staircase to be removed and the tower to be disassembled. Indeed, within a few years, the sea had cut away the northern end of the island endangering the lighthouse and associated buildings. In 1889, it was moved one mile southeast of the old site, where it still stands today. The following year the keeper’s dwelling, oil-house, and other buildings were relocated to the new lighthouse site. A road for the dock and tram were also constructed to transport the barrels of oil for the light.

The lighthouse was active until June 16, 1933. In 1994, the South Carolina Park Service installed a decorative light to The Oil Housebring to mind the historical use of the lighthouse to the thousands of visitors to the park and lighthouse each year.

Friends of Hunting Island volunteers have renovated the outbuildings and collected lighthouse artifacts, circa 1900. We have also completed archaeological digs at the cistern and the keeper’s house. A team of park staff and Friends volunteers are pledged to carry on the presentation of this historical landmark. Don’t miss the diorama of the future of our lighthouse grounds at the Visitor Center. The Friends of Hunting Island also provides volunteer docents for the lighthouse.

CLICK HERE to listen Park Manager, Daniel Gambrell talks about the Hunting Island Lighthouse.

Hunting Island Lighthouse FAQs

♦ 1859: First Lighthouse on Hunting Island (built of brick) - destroyed during Civil War
♦ 1875: Rebuilt with interchangeable curved cast iron panels each weighing 1,200 lbs, interior solid brick wall
♦ 1889: disassembled and moved 1and 1/4 mile from rapidly eroding northern point of island
♦ Lighthouse displayed light 133' above mean high tide which could be seen 18 miles at sea
♦ June 16, 1933: lighthouse has a Second Order Fresnal Lens—a compact lens that can capture oblique light allowing visibility at greater distances
♦ 1938-1942: Civilian Conservation Corps built connecting roads to mainland and creates Hunting Island Park
♦ June 9, 1938: fire destroyed light-keeper house and 2/3 of maritime forest, marines assisted the CCC for 3 days in putting out the fire
♦ 1940-1941: 5,717 visitors to the island, brought to halt with outbreak of World War II
♦ Several branches of military were stationed on Hunting Island. Army Air Corps used lighthouse as a radio station in April 1942
♦ November 1942: Coast Guard used Hunting Island to protect coastline during World War II
♦ 1966: Hunting Island State Park was completely desegregated


LISTED IN THE NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES


Hunting Island Lighthouse#70000561 in NRIS (National Register Information System) ,    June 5, 1970

17 mi. SSW of Beaufort on U.S. 21, Beaufort

Historic Significance: Event, Architecture/Engineering
   Architect, builder, or engineer: US Coast Guard

Architectural Style: No Style Listed

Area of Significance: Engineering, Commerce

Period of Significance: 1875-1899, 1925-1949

Owner: State

Historic Function: Transportation

Historic Sub-function: Water-Related

Current Function: Transportation

Current Sub-function: Water-Related

Site LogoHelp us keep Hunting Island State Park a special place

We need only two things to provide the services and projects you see described on this website: your participation and your tax-deductible membership fees. For one $40 membership contribution, you and your family can join Friends of Hunting Island and have unlimited access to the park for one year. All members are encouraged to participate in any of our on-going projects. If you do not wish to join, but want to donate to our efforts, click here to make a tax-deductible donation to the Friends of Hunting Island.