This is an old blog that I started in 2006. I keep it because it has a lot of historical data and people still come here. As of September 2016, no new updates will be made here. All new blog posts and writing/publishing related news will be posted over on my new site at

Friday, August 20, 2010

Georgetown Lighthouse, SC

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

One of our summer adventures landed us at the Georgetown Lighthouse in South Carolina. It is the state's oldest active lighthouse and stands 87 feet tall. Since 1986, the lights burn both day and night because it lacks a auto-mechanism. The town of Georgetown was established in 1732 during the colonial days and named for King George I of England. 

At one time, Georgetown exported more rice than any other port in the world. A light was needed to guide vessels between the Waccamaw River and the Atlantic Ocean. Even though a local businessman donated a tract of land for the tower in 1789, government politics delayed the process and it wasn't until 1795 that the government bought a parcel of land for the tower. Construction didn't begin until 1799, it wasn't lit until two years later.

The lighthouse was built on North Island at the entrance of Winyah Bay and Georgetown. It was a 72-foot wooden structure. As you can imagine, it was demolished five years later by a storm. The first lantern was six feet in diameter and the beacon fueled by cheap whale oil. 

The structure was rebuilt in 1812 at the same height, but this time made of brick and painted white. During the Civil War, the lighthouse was used as an observation tower by the Confederates until captured by the Union in May 1862. 

It suffered severe damage throughout the Civil War and was rebuilt again in 1867 at 87-feet tall and is the current structure you see in the photos I've taken. At one time there was a 2-story white house for the light keeper and a white picket fence around it. The house and fence are now gone. Today it contains a 3500-candlepower light that is magnified through a 5th order Fresnal lens, visible up to 12 miles.

The lighthouse isn't open for people to climb the 127 steps to the top, but it is viewable by boat. We went on an excellent shelling tour to the island where the sea meets the harbor.

Personal Visit and Tour
Lighthouses of the Carolinas: A Short History and Guide by Terrance Zepke


Wow, very interesting. Thanks for sharing.



We visited the area several years ago and saw some lighthouses. We have several of them down the west coast too. Love the Carolinas. Will be visiting there again in October.

Ah, the takes it could tell, Jen.

Loved your *history* lesson and the pics. It certainly captures the imagination, though.

So, does Georgetown still export rice?

Love Lighthouses, thank you for sharing. Would love to see those too. We have them on the NW coastline, Oregon and Washington, the only ones I have seen. Juanita W

Thanks, Kym and Sia. I'd love to know the histories those walls could tell.

Jan and Juanita, I hope to one day get to visit the west coast and some of the lighthouses there--and the great lakes.