Sand Island Light (AL)

Oct. 15, 2019

Sand Island Light, Sand Island, Gulf of Mexico, Mobile County, Alabama

First built in 1838, the current structure was built in 1873.


Location: Off Mobile Point south of Fort Morgan
Station Established: 1838
Year Current / Last Tower(s) First Lit: 1873
Operational: No
Automated: Yes, 1921
Deactivated: 1933
Foundation Materials: Stone
Construction Materials: Brownstone
Tower Shape: Conical
Height: 131'
Markings/Pattern: Unpainted Gothic tower with black lantern
Relationship to Other Structure: Separate
Original Lens: 1838: 14 lamps with 16-inch reflectors; 1859: First order Fresnel lens; 1862-63: Fourth order Fresnel lens; 1873: Second order Fresnel lens, now at at the Fort Morgan Museum.
Characteristic: Fixed white
Fog Signal: Bell struck by machinery every 20 seconds.

Historical Information:

  • In 1937 the building of Sand Island Light was approved and $10,000 was authorized for the building of Alabama's only seacoast light. The tower was designed by Winslow Lewis and was completed in 1838. Construction came in under budget costing $8,899.00. The lens consisted of 14 lamps with 16-inch reflectors. John McCloud was installed as the first Keeper.
  • First tower was replaced in 1859 under supervision of Danville Ledbetter an Army Engineer. This was then the tallest lighthouse built on the Gulf Coast. A first order Fresnel lens was installed.
  • The lighthouse was intentionally destroyed in 1863 by Confederate soldiers when it was discovered that Union soldiers were using the tower as a lookout to spy on Fort Morgan.
  • From 1864 to 1873 a temporary wooden structure was used which displayed a fourth order lens.
  • Current tower was completed and lit in 1873. The same plans used in the Currituck Lighthouse were also used for construction of this one. A second order Fresnel lens was installed.
  • In 1889 1,600 tons of granite was placed around the tower as rip rap to fight erosion that was washing away the Island.
  • In the 1903 Light List, the "Description of Station" reads: "Black conical tower; white dwelling with green blinds, on pile foundation 768 feet N. by WE. 3/4 W. from tower.  Square, white, pyramidal fog-bell tower about 470 feet N. by W. 1/4 W. from the light-tower.  Rear light on the middle of the ridge of the roof of the keepers' dwelling."  At this time the station was a range, with the tall tower being the front range light and the rear beacon was a 35 foot tower that was 768 feet North by West 3/4 West in the rear.  Ships approaching the area noted "The rear light should be kept open just to the westward of the light tower."
  • In September 1906 a hurricane struck. The tower withstood the hurricane but Assistant Keeper Andrew Hansen, his wife and another Keeper's wife were killed. The surviving Keeper had gone ashore a few days prior to the storm. The storm destroyed the two story keeper's house.
  • A second hurricane struck in 1919. None of the Keeper's survived this second storm. The log indicated they had gone to pick up a second assistant Keeper and it was thought they must all have been caught in the storm.
  • The light was automated in 1921.
  • Deactivated in 1933.
  • In 1971 the second order Fresnel lens was removed from the lighthouse and is on display at the Fort Morgan Museum.
  • In 1973 the Keeper's house rebuilt in 1925 burned down.
  • In November of 1975 the light was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Lighthouse is owned by the town of Dauphin Island. Efforts have begun to preserve the structure.