One of Georgia’s beloved lighthouses turns 150 years old this weekend.
And the non-profit group that takes care of it plans to bathe it in light as part of a big sesquicentennial celebration.
The St. Simons Island Lighthouse opened in 1872 to replace an earlier lighthouse that was destroyed during the Civil War.
The 104-foot beacon serves ships entering the Brunswick harbor as one of only two Georgia lighthouses, along with Tybee Island’s, that remain active aids to navigation.
Sandy White is the education and volunteer director for the Coastal Georgia Historical Society, which runs the lighthouse.
She recalls the dedication of generations of lighthouse keepers who kept the tower shining for mariners looking for safety.
The longest serving keeper, Carl Svendsen, showed such dedication in the 1920’s when a tropical storm blew out a window pane at the top of the tower, threatening the flame inside its kerosene lamp.
“Svenson and his assistant held a piece of plywood up against the broken pane the entire night to make sure that the light was not extinguished and that any ship that was passing by would have an aid to navigation to help them come home,” White said.
The light is now electric and automated.
But such stories from the lighthouse’s past will be told over the weekend when a production and design company will project an animated light show on the outside of the white tower.
The beacon will become a kind of cylindrical movie screen, with an accompanying audio soundtrack highlighting the Georgia coast’s heritage and culture.
It’s a unique celebration for a majestic symbol of the Golden Isles, one that thousands of visitors enjoy every year as they walk past the oak-draped waterfront park that surrounds the lighthouse or, if they have the stamina, climb its 129 steps.
“Lighthouses symbolize home,” White said. “It’s such an iconic symbol of the community. You see it on logos from the county that we live in, Glynn County, to local dentist offices and construction companies.”
The free 20-minute show will be repeated several times over the Labor Day weekend, each night Friday through Monday.
This story comes to Reporter Newspapers / Atlanta Intown through a reporting partnership with GPB News, a non-profit newsroom covering the state of Georgia.