St. Simons Island Light

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St. Simons Island Light
Lighthouse and museum, St. Simons, GA, USA.JPG
Lighthouse and keeper's house
St. Simons Island Light is located in Georgia (U.S. state)
St. Simons Island Light
Location600 Beachview Dr., Saint Simons Island, Georgia
Coordinates31°08′03″N 81°23′37″W / 31.13411°N 81.39358°W / 31.13411; -81.39358Coordinates: 31°08′03″N 81°23′37″W / 31.13411°N 81.39358°W / 31.13411; -81.39358
Year first constructed1810
Year first lit1872
ConstructionIron and brick
Tower shapeFrustum of a cone
Markings / patternWhite tower attached to a two-story brick dwelling with red roof
Tower height104 feet (32 m)
Original lensThird-order Fresnel lens
Characteristiccontinuous white light with a more intense flash every 60 s
Admiralty numberJ2842
ARLHS numberUSA-805[1][2]
USCG number3-0520
Heritageplace listed on the National Register of Historic Places Edit this on Wikidata
St. Simons Lighthouse and Lighthouse Keepers' Building
Area3.6 acres (1.5 ha)
ArchitectPoe, Bvt. Gen. O.M.; Charles B. Cluskey
Architectural styleGothic, Other, Eclectic
NRHP reference #72000386[3]
Added to NRHPApril 13, 1972

The St. Simons Island Light is a lighthouse on the southern tip of St. Simons Island, Georgia, United States. It guides ships into St. Simons Sound and warns of the many sandbars in the area.

Original structure[edit]

The original St. Simons Island lighthouse, which was built in 1810, was a 75-foot-tall (23 m) early federal octagonal lighthouse topped by a 10-foot (3.0 m) oil-burning lamp. During the American Civil War, U.S. military forces employed a Naval blockade of the coast. An invasion by Union troops in 1862 forced Confederate soldiers to abandon the area. The retreating troops destroyed the lighthouse to prevent it from being an aid to the navigation of Union warships.

Current structure[edit]

The U.S. government constructed a new lighthouse to replace the original, building it to the west of the original's location. It is a 104-foot (32 m) brick structure completed in 1872 and was outfitted with a third-order, biconvex Fresnel lens. The lens is one of 70 such lenses that remain operational in the United States. Sixteen of those are in use on the Great Lakes, of which eight are in Michigan.[4] The rotating lens projects four beams of light, with one strong flash every 60 seconds.[5] A cast iron spiral stairway with 129 steps[5] leads to the galley (or watch/service room[6]). In 1876, the lighthouse was overhauled.

The Lighthouse is reputed to be haunted by the ghost of lightkeeper Frederick Osborne, who was killed in a duel with assistant keeper John Stephens in early March 1880. One account had Osborne, apparently a chronic faultfinder, making an inappropriate remark to Stephens's wife, the other had Stephens making unwanted advances on Osborne's wife. At any rate, standing 98 feet apart, Osborne had a pistol and Stephen a shotgun loaded with buckshot. Stephen fatally wounded Osborne and was later acquitted of any charges. Stephens later reported hearing footsteps ascending and descending the tower steps and blamed it on Osborne's ghost. There's an account of keeper Svendsen's family dog Jinx being constantly harassed by the ghost. Multiple witnesses have reporting hearing the sounds on the steps, including Coast Guardsmen while doing routine maintenance of the light mechanism. The belief is the fastidious Fred Osborne is coming back to check and make sure that the light is properly cared for.[7] On November 30, 2013 a paranormal investigation group called LDLParanormal,[8] claims to have identified electronic voice phenomenon (EVP) and recorded them on video with the alleged actual voice of Frederick Osborne. The Video[9] was posted December 3, 2013 and also indicates evidence about Lisa Register who allegedly committed suicide August 19, 1999 by jumping from the top of the lighthouse.[10] On December 26, 2015 LDLParanormal again investigated the lighthouse this time from the top of the observation deck on the east side and again documented on video, voices that indicated that Osborne may have been shot with a pistol [11] One of the EVP's recorded indicates in a Class A EVP the name "Carl" and indications are that this refers to Carl Olaf Svendsen who ran the light house in 1910 [12]

In 1934, the kerosene-burning lamp was replaced by a 1000-watt electrical light.[5] On July 1, 1939, the United States Lighthouse Service was placed under the jurisdiction of the US Coast Guard.[5][13] In 1953 the lighthouse was fully automated.[14]

Head Keepers: James Gould (1811–1837), Lachlan McIntosh (1837–1852), Alexander D. McIntosh (1852–1855), John F. Carmon (1855–1861), Bradford B. Brunt (1872 – 1874), Frederick Osborne (1874 – 1880), George W. Ashbell (1880 – 1883), Isaac L. Peckham (1883 – 1892), Joseph Champagne (1892 – 1907), Carl O. Svendsen (1907 – 1935), Arthur F. Hodge (1936 – 1945), David O’Hagan (1945 - 1953).[14]

In 1972, the Coast Guard placed rear range lights on two towers at the entrance to the Frederica River off of St. Simons Sound. Entering the entrance channel at sea and proceeding inward, by keeping the lighthouse centered between the two rear range lights, keeps one in the center of the entrance channel. The lighthouse is therefore still an active navigational aid.[15]

In 1972, the light-keepers' cottage was leased to Glynn County. The Coastal Georgia Historical Society spent three years restoring the two-story Victorian light keepers' cottage, located at the base of the lighthouse, which was then converted into a museum. In 1984, they leased the historic lighthouse structure. For a fee, the public can tour the museum, and climb the 129 steps to the top of the lighthouse for a view of St. Simons Sound and the surrounding area.[14]

The tower underwent restoration in 1989–91 and again in 1997–98.

May 26, 2004, ownership of the lighthouse was transferred to the Coastal Georgia Historical Society under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act.[14]

The light mechanism is maintained by the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, led by Jeff Cole since 1993[16][17]

The St. Simons Lighthouse, along with the northernmost water tower on Jekyll Island, creates the demarcation line that separates St. Simons Sound from the Atlantic Ocean.

The lighthouse is a picturesque and beloved symbol of St. Simons Island, and Glynn County, Georgia. It is the subject of many paintings and other artistic renderings.[18]

2010 restoration[edit]

In 2010, the St. Simons Island lighthouse underwent a major renovation. It was closed to the public for several months while all interior and exterior paint was sandblasted off, and then repainted. Eight iron handrail posts at the top of the tower were replaced, having been recast from one of the originals. All ironwork was sandblasted and repaired as needed. Great lengths were taken to protect the valuable Fresnel lens during the restoration. It was bubble wrapped, shrink wrapped, and then finally enclosed in a plywood box. A temporary spotlight attached to the galley of the lighthouse continued to guide ships into the Sound while the main light was out of operation.


The Coastal Georgia Historical Society allows visitors to climb up the 129 steps of the lighthouse tower and operates the St. Simons Lighthouse Museum in the 1872 keeper's house.

The Society's headquarters are located in the adjacent A. W. Jones Heritage Center, which includes exhibits, the Society's archives, a research library, event hall, museum shop, and administrative offices.

The Society also operates the World War II Home Front Museum on St. Simons.

Image gallery[edit]


  1. ^ Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society, St. Simons Island (New) Light ARLHS USA-805.
  2. ^ Amateur Radio Light House Society, World List of Lights (WLOL).
  3. ^ National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  4. ^ United States Coast Guard, Fresnel Lenses Still in Operation Archived 2009-03-25 at Archive-It.
  5. ^ a b c d Coastal Georgia Historical Society-St. Simons Lighthouse History:
  6. ^ Lighthouse
  7. ^ Information compiled from "Ghost Stories and Superstitions of Old Saint Simons" collected by Burnette Vanstory; various websites(Coastal Georgia Historical Society-St. Simons Lighthouse History:,; Explore Southern of the St. Simons Lighthouse:; of the St. Simons Lighthouse; Coastal Living-Haunted Spots on the Coast-Top 15 Haunted Lighthouses-St. Simons Lighthouse, St. Simons Island, Georgia:; Phenomenal-St. Simons Lighthouse:; Haunted Lighthouses-St. Simons Island Light House by T Duplain:; Haunted Hovel-The old lighthouse, St. Simons Island:; Lighthouse Simons, GA:; Georgia’s Ghostly Getaways:; PBS-Legendary Lighthouses-Jinx and the Ghost at St. Simons Island/Shrimpers:; and personal experiences by former BM2 George Harwood, USCG, and at one time in charge of maintaining the lighthouse
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ United States Lighthouse Service
  14. ^ a b c d
  15. ^ Former BM2 George Harwood, USCG, who installed the range lights
  16. ^ Coastal Georgia Historical Society website
  17. ^ Coast Guard Auxiliary-Keepers of the Light:
  18. ^ Bansemer, R.L., Painting of St. Simons Island Light.

Further reading[edit]

  • Jones, Ray, (1988) Southeastern Lighthouses.
  • McCarthy, Kevin (1988) Georgia's Lighthouses and Historic Coastal Sites.
  • Sullivan, Buddy, The Lighthouses of Georgia, The Keeper's Log, Spring 1988.

External links[edit]

Rowlett, Russ. "Lighthouses of the United States: Georgia". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.