So if you ask most people, what is the oldest lighthouse in Georgia, few people would venture to think that the Tybee Island Lighthouse is actually the answer! It’s also the tallest lighthouse in Georgia as well!
Constructed in 1773, it featured detached buildings to house its personnel. Today, An entry ticket grants you permission to see where the lighthouse keeper and his work staff and aids worked and lived with their families.
Once in, you can visit the Lighthouse, the Head Keepers Cottage, the Summer Kitchen, the 2nd Assistant Keeper’s Cottage, as well as the Tybee Island Museum which is conveniently located just across the street.
Apparently, it’s approximately 178 steps to the top so those with the faintest of heart need to stay put on the ground. Once you have reached the top platform, you can witness the impressively, large piece of glass that continues to beam a blinding ray of light designed to help those find their way in all weather conditions. And, once you’re up there and walking around the top, the view is absolutely breathtaking.
It definitely has played a significant part in the history of Savannah.
The Lighthouse is closed on the following holidays: Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day (or the day of the parade in Savannah). Please note the lighthouse is closed on Mondays.
If you want some more information about the history of this historic part of America’s Story, below is a truncated overview providing a snapshot of what happened from 1736, and afterwards. So if you want some good, tasty, good ‘ol tidbits of interesting souther history, then read on. This crazy fun info is great at cocktail parties! people think you’re a crazy genius!
In 1732, General James Oglethorpe, Governor of the 13th colony, had given orders that allowed the safe welcome into the historic Savannah River for over 285 years. As one of the United States oldest and most intact historical lighthouses, this historic location has all of its historical support buildings on its specific, three acre area of service. Although this lighthouse was rebuilt several times, it still boasts an historic, 178 steps to the top of the building continuing to shine its First Order Fresnel Lens.
The Tybee Island Lighthouse was constructed in 1736, three years after General Oglethorpe, has claimed Savannah as their own. Built under the strict direction and attention of Noble Jones of Wormsloe plantation, it was planned to be a contemporary example of a state-of-the-art lighthouse.
Erected a staggering 90 feet tall. it was the tallest manmade structure of its kind in that day and age. Originally octagonal in design and built from Brick and cedar wood resources, work began on the first day-mark (the structure did not yet have a light) constructed on Tybee Island. Due to many unfortunate weather events, some back-to-back, The Tybee island Lighthouse suffered extensive damage. Five years post completion, a strong storm was responsible for sweeping the old day-mark away in August of 1741.
In 1742, the second day-mark for the Ligthhouse was built and completed on Tybee. Described and honored by Oglethorpe, he proclaimed the Tybee island Lighthouse as “much the best building of that kind in America.”
There was also one profound difference…. Different from its predecessor, this newly, rebuilt structure stood ninety-four feet with a flagstaff which ran from the nave to the top of the beacon. By 1748, the encroaching sea was now unfortunately within thirty feet of the day-mark. Certain measures had to be taken to stabilize the surrounding areas. Piles were driven deep into the sand to support the foundations. Unfortunately, as this was taking place, the ocean began to rise… amazingly reaching the very door of the day-mark.
Now more than ever, it was obvious that a new day-mark was needed and time was the elusive factor.
With the sea lapping continuously at the foundation of the day-mark, the Georgia Assembly authorized a lighthouse to be built in 1768. Rather than stay on the additional site and built upwards, a site, well removed and better protected from the sea was chosen.
In 1773, the new Tybee Island Light House was built and completed in the early months of 1773. In 1790, the day-mark/lighthouse was given to the Federal Government from the colony of Georgia. Then in 1791, The United States Lighthouse Establishment took over the operation of the day-mark turning it into a lighthouse. This marked an historic occasion allowing the 100 foot tall brick and wood structure to be lit with spermaceti candles for the first time.
In 1861, the Civil War marked a tumultuous time for the Tybee Island Lighthouse. When retreating to Fort Pulaski, in order to prevent Union forces from utilizing the lighthouse to help their ships navigate into the port from the sea, the Confederate troops set the tower ablaze destroying the top 40 feet of stairs that were housed inside the tower.
Post Civil War, the authorities from the Lighthouse Establishment started the rebuilding process of the Tybee Light. As only the upper stairs had burned, the lower sixty feet of the old lighthouse was still intact. As a result, it was decided by the Lighthouse Establishment to add to the existing structure instead anew. The goal this time was to make sure the entire lighthouse was fireproof and now designated to be a first order station, consisting of masonry and metal only. This is how the Tybee Island Lighthouse stands today in all its glory.