CR 12: Sand Island Lighthouse - Montgomery Alabama news.

CR 12: Sand Island Lighthouse

Jim Hall has made this trip dozens of times.  "The lighthouse is about 4 miles from here," said Alabama Lighthouse Association member Hall.   On a wet summer day our boat bounced through the choppy Gulf heading for a real piece of history.    "This is one of the most difficult to get to because you can only do it by boat."

But that wasn't the case 40 years ago when it was built.  This was actually the third lighthouse at this location.  The first was one wasn't tall enough so they knocked it down.  The second one was taken over by soldiers from the North in the Civil War so Confederate soldiers blew it up.   This one was started in 1871, and was done by 1872, it's still standing.   "When it was built it was over 400 acres, there were 26 buildings out here."   But slowly over the years the currents pushed the sand away leaving the lighthouse standing alone. 

This 130 foot tower has seen some battles.   "Hurricane after hurricane has come through here."  One hurricane in the early 1900s killed the lighthouse keeper and his wife.   "You can imagine when Katrina came through with waves 20-30 feet high."

The base of the Sand Island lighthouse is 11 feet thick, fortified with bricks from Baldwin County.  And before GPS and computer navigation, this was a real lifesaver.   "You can imagine during the sailing ship days coming in with nothing but a compass and the wind, and you finally see the lighthouse and say, Hey we did it!"

Somebody had to there at all times.   "This lighthouse and others had lighthouse keepers, they literally lived at the lighthouse.  You can only imagine the solitude and isolation."  

The Sand Island lighthouse was deactivated in the 1930's, in the 70s the keepers home was destroyed by fire.   The Army Corps of Engineers has repeatedly tried to surround the lighthouse with sand, but the currents are too strong, and it washes away.   After doing a study, the Alabama Lighthouse Association found it would cost about $30 million to make the lighthouse a public area where people could walk around and climb up the tower.  There's no money for that.  So far now it sits, a tower of history, alone in the waters off Dauphin Island.  

Copyright 2012  WSFA 12 News.  All rights reserved.

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