The City Magazine Since 1975

Guiding Light

Guiding Light
August 2019

Before the advent of GPS, the Morris Island Lighthouse—built in 1876 with distinctive black-and-white stripes and a state-of-the-art prism lens—signaled to mariners that they were approaching Charleston Harbor. When first lit, the tower stood on solid land, along with a schoolhouse, offices, and the keepers’ dwelling pictured above. A system of jetties, however, spurred erosion that quickly swept sands away from Morris Island. By the 1930s, waves lapped the steps of the keepers’ home, where William Hecker and William Davis—along with their wives and children—stood watch until 1938, when the lighthouse was finally automated and the buildings razed. Mrs. Hecker recalled, “We loved the island, but the waves were coming in my door.” The tower fell into neglect after its decommissioning in 1962, passing through the hands of three developers until grassroots nonprofit Save the Light, Inc. raised funds in 1999 to purchase the maritime relic. Thus far, Save the Light has constructed a steel cofferdam and concrete foundation, and through fundraising efforts, aims to restore the tower after its years of weathering hurricanes and disuse.


Photograph courtesy of The Charleston Museum