Originally abandoned in 1908 following a time of ruin and despair, It is now in the hands of a non-profit organization called “Friends of Cockspur Lighthouse” where… every cent of every donation goes toward restoration.
This worn, lighthouse, island beauty is now being restored thanks to many people who understand how important it is to keep history present and alive. It’s amazing to think that only 14 years ago, the restoration of this historic gem is now slowly being brought back to life soon ready to be once again, the beautiful, Cockspur Lighthouse that it is… proudly guarding the mouth of the Savannah river.
If you’d like to read about the history of the Cockspur Lighthouse, well, that would be below. Cheers!
The Cockspur Lighthouse, is located 12 miles east of the Georgia Port of Savannah. Originally built as a daymark between March of 1837 and November of 1839, it sits atop an islet just off the southeastern tip of Cockspur Island which designates the South Channel of the Savannah River.
Many earlier documents suggest that the noted New York architect, John Norris, had been contracted and retained to supervise the construction of an illuminated station. Mr. Norris’s responsibilities included the reparation of the lighting system as well as designing and overseeing the construction of a suitable keeper’s homestay.
The first tower originally housed a focal plane that was approximately 25’ from ocean level. The new beacon supported a fixed white light with illumination coming from 5 lamps with 14” reflectors that were visible for almost 10 miles.
References of historical significance also support the notion that he was responsible for designing many of Savannah’s grand structures including the U.S. Custom House in downtown Savannah, the Mercer-Wilder House, as well as the Green-Meldrim House where it was written that General Sherman had stayed during the Civil War.
In 1854, when the Cockspur Lighthouse was completely destroyed by a hurricane, the tower was rebuilt and widened to create a much stronger foundation. At the commencement of the American Civil war, the beacon was temporarily shutdown.
Next, during a long range bombardment of Fort Pulaski, Union military forces focused in 11 batteries stretching miles along the beach, conducted a 34 hour siege of Fort Pulaski. Apparently, it was noted that 36 guns participated in this intense, fast battle, which amazingly completely spared the Cockspur Lighthouse from any significant damage.
On April 11, 1862, following the surrender of Fort Pulaski, the lighthouse was suspended from operation. With the end of the war on April 25, 1866, the “interior light” was relit. This post construction of the lighthouse also included the painting of this historic landmark white so it could be used as a daymark.
The history of the Cockspur Lighthouse has definitely been plagued by many different weather events throughout the years. Case in point, on August 27, in the year 1881, a massive hurricane struck Cockspur Island causing the waters to rise to 23′ above sea level. The dramatic and destruction storm surge quickly filled the lighthouse interior and completely destroyed the Keeper’s residence.
Then, the great hurricane of 1893 stuck the lighthouse forcing the caretakers, including Jeremiah Keane, the Keeper, and the Assistant Keeper, Charles Sisson to seek refuge inside the Northwest stair tower.
The history continues when on June 1, 1909, the Cockspur lighthouse beacon was extinguished to accommodate large freighters, and the increasingly busy traffic that the Savannah port brought with it routing vessels to the deep, more navigable, North Channel.
As the continuing threat to the beacon by salvage crews and other private interests grew, the National Park Service looked into the acquisition of the light. On August 14, 1958, by official presidential proclamation, the Cockspur Lighthouse was finally transferred from the United States Coast Guard to the National Park Service.
The National Park Service is dedicated to the preservation of this historic southern marker. Due to ongoing preservation efforts, the lighthouse and lighthouse island are closed to the public. However, an overlook trail offers visitors the best chance to get a closer look at the lighthouse today.
For over 10 years now, “Friends of Cockspur Lighthouse” was established to act in unison with the National Park Service. One of the first things they did was to create a close relationship with the National Park Service so the two could work in unison with one another.
In 2007, due to all of the work and all of the concerted efforts by many people along with “Friends of Cockspur Lighthouse” the NPS had a Grand Re-Lighting ceremony and was officiated by David W. Kunkel, the retired, decorated, Rear Admiral.
This wonderful, historic event marked the first time the light had been illuminated in nearly a hundred years.
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