Tybee Island Light Station
Ordered by General James Oglethorpe, Governor of the 13th colony, in 1732, the Tybee Island Light Station has been guiding mariners safe entrance into the Savannah River for over 285 years. The Tybee Island Light Station is one of America's most intact light station having all of its historic support buildings on its three-acre site. Rebuilt several times the current Lighthouse displays its 1916 day mark with 178 steps and a First Order Fresnel Lens.
Under the direction of Noble Jones of Wormsloe Plantation, work began on the first day-mark (a lighthouse without a light) built on Tybee. It was constructed in 1736. It was octagonal in shape and was constructed of brickwork and cedar piles. Standing ninety feet tall, it was the tallest structure of its kind in America at that time. Unfortunately, storms took their toll on Tybee’s first day-mark. Five years after its completion, a new day-mark was commissioned. While work was progressing on a new day-mark, a storm swept the old day-mark away in August 1741.
In 1742, the second day-mark built on Tybee was completed. It was described by Oglethorpe as “much the best building of that kind in America.” It was different from its predecessor, standing ninety-four feet with a flagstaff which ran from the nave to the top of the beacon. By 1748, the sea was within thirty feet of the day-mark. Piles were driven into the sand to support the foundations. Unfortunately, that is when the sea started to encroach, reaching the very door of the day-mark. A new day-mark was needed and time was running out.
In 1768, with the sea lapping at the foundation of the day-mark, the Georgia Assembly authorized a new day-mark/lighthouse to be built. This time a site well removed from the sea was chosen and the building was completed in early 1773. The day-mark/lighthouse was ceded to the Federal Government from the colony of Georgia in 1790. The United States Lighthouse Establishment then took over the operation of the day-mark turning it into a lighthouse and in 1791, the 100 foot tall brick and wood structure was lit with spermaceti candles for the first time.
In 1861, the wooden stairs and the top 40 feet of the tower were destroyed during the Civil War when Confederate troops, retreating to Fort Pulaski, set fire to the tower in order to prevent the Union 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 anew. The lighthouse was now to be a first order station, consisting of masonry and metal only. It was completely fireproof. This is the lighthouse that stands today.
Tybee Island Museum
The museum is open daily (except Tuesdays) from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The last tickets are sold at 4:30 p.m. and can be purchased at the Tybee Island Light Station.
The Tybee Island Museum is housed in a historic Endicott Period Battery, which was built as a part of Fort Screven during the Spanish-American War in 1899.
Fort Screven was an important military post of the Spanish American War (1898). Most of its batteries were not completed in time for that war, and the Spanish never threatened an attack on Savannah and the fort never came under fire.
Fort Screven had seven batteries, six on Tybee Island and a seventh, Battery Hambright, near Fort Pulaski. Battery Garland now houses the Tybee Island Museum and is open to the public. The others can be seen from the street and beach, but are not publicly accessible.
Visit the museum to learn more about the the batteries and Fort Screven's history in World War I and World War II, as well as its effect on the community of Tybee Island.
We Rely on Your Generosity
Your contribution will help the Tybee Island Light Station and Museum continue to provide the best possible service to the public. Your contribution will help with the continued preservation of the site and the education of our visitors.