I used to dream about living in a lighthouse. I imagined the sound of the surf crashing against rocks as I stood alone, looking out at sea with the blinking light above me guiding ships to shore. I’m not sure where this fantasy came from. I grew up in the Midwest and didn’t even see an actual lighthouse until I was in my twenties. Still, I imagined it as a very romantic sort of life. There’s something so alluring about lighthouses, don’t you think?
The Tybee Island Lighthouse is probably the most accessible lighthouse I’ve seen so far, and it gave me a glimpse of what it might have been like to be a girl growing up at a lighthouse (not in a lighthouse, though, as I would have wanted).
The lighthouse itself is open for tours. You can climb the 178 steps to the top, which is the only way you’ll see water from the lighthouse grounds. Seems odd, doesn’t it?
But the current Tybee Lighthouse is actually the 4th lighthouse to be erected on Tybee Island. The first Tybee Lighthouse was blown down in storms because it was built too close to the shore and the seawater rotted its foundation. The second lighthouse was not much further inland. Within two years of its completion, wind erosion had removed a good part of the sand under the foundations and the decision was made to build the third lighthouse away from shore. Then, during the Civil War, Confederate troops from Fort Pulaski set fire to that tower in order to prevent the Federal troops from using it to guide their ships into port.
After the Civil War, the Lighthouse Establishment began work on rebuilding the Tybee Light. The lower sixty feet of the old lighthouse was still intact, and it was decided to add to the existing structure instead of starting from the ground up. The U.S. Coast Guard occupied the lighthouse until 1987 when the Tybee Island Historical Society took over in restoring the historical sight. Now visitors can explore the lighthouse as well as the Lighthouse Keeper’s cottage as it might have looked in the early 1900’s.
I was actually a little dismayed to think that if I’d grown up as a Lighthouse Keeper’s daughter I would have lived in a house next to the lighthouse; not in it. Now that I’m older (and perhaps wiser), I realize that the real beauty is in living somewhere close enough to view a lighthouse, not within its walls at all.
How do you feel about lighthouses?