With a history that dates back to its ordering and conception in 1732, the Tybee Island Lighthouse is a complete light station that stands 145 feet tall and has three Light Keeper's Cottages close by. History & Lighthouse enthusiasts won't want to pass this by as it is one of America's oldest, tallest, and most intact historical lighthouses today.
Order to be constructed by General James Oglethorpe in 1732 and completed in 1736, the Tybee Lighthouse only stood for 5 years before being felled by a storm in 1741. It was rebuilt the following year by Thomas Summer and was constructed using stone and wood to strengthen it, but again only to be swept away by encroaching tides and erosion. John Mullryne made the third attempt to build the lighthouse and erected it in its current place in 1773. He made his design out of bricks, wooden stairs, and landings. His original base remains intact within the current lighthouse.
In 1790 the lighthouse was fitted with reflects and candles but then quickly upgraded to oil lamps. Before 1790, the structure sported a very tall flag pole instead. In 1822, a second tower was added approximately 1,000 feet from the current site to form a navigation range for ships entering the narrow Savannah River. In 1857 the two towers were upgraded and received Fresnel Lenses, but then during the Civil War, Confederate forces burned the lighthouses. However, Confederates removed the delicate lens when they retreated to Fort Pulaski.
The fourth attempt at the Tybee Island lighthouse began in 1866 but was delayed when a cholera outbreak hit the area. Once completed, the new tower sat atop the first 60 feet of the pre-existing tower. This brought the lighthouse to its current height of 145 feet. It was again equipped with Fresnel Lenses, but they were even larger than the previous installation. Unfortunately, the Tybee Island Lighthouse had another instance of bad luck in 1871, when a hurricane severely damaged the exterior. After repairing the hurricane damage, additional accommodations were erected, the lighthouse keeper's dwellings were installed on the five-acre grounds. In 1933 the lighthouse was fitted with electricity, and the lighthouse staff was reduced to a single light keeper until 1972 when the Tybee Island Lighthouse became automated.
In 1999 major restoration began on the Tybee Island Lighthouse by The Tybee Island Historical Society. They were further aided in this in 2002 with the passing of the National Lighthouse Preservation Act. This allowed the altruistic group of locals and historians to repaint the tower in the 1916-1966 black-white-black daymark and open the lighthouse and the impressive grounds for public tours. You can climb all 178 steps to the top and take some of the best images of Tybee Island from the outlook of this immaculately preserved historical lighthouse.
The Tybee Island lighthouse is open Wednesday through Monday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for ticket sales. The grounds close by 5:30. The lighthouse and ground are closed Tuesdays and some holidays. Please check the lighthouse website for accurate hours and pricing.