Ship Island Light

Oct. 15, 2019

Ship Island Light, near Gulfport, Mississippi

Originally built in 1853, current tower built in 1886.


Location: On the northerly side of the westerly end of Ship Island, and on the easterly side of the entrance to the Ship Island anchorage from the Gulf.
Station Established: 1853
Year Current / Last Tower(s) First Lit: 1886
Operational: No
Automated: 1950
Deactivated: 1964
Current / Last Tower Shape / Markings / Pattern: Black lantern on square, white, wooden pyramidal tower; one-story white frame dwelling with green blinds, along-side.
Height: 50 feet
Original Lens: Fourth Order
Characteristic: Fixed white (1865); fixed red (1880)
Foghorn: None

Historical Chronology:

  • On 1 August 1848, $12,000 was allotted for a lighthouse on the west end of Ship Island.  The appropriation was renewed on 28 September 1850 and again on 31 August 1852.
  • After a dispute regarding the land available was resolved, the Collector of Customs at Mobile advertised for bids on 2 August 1852 in a Mobile newspaper for the lighthouse's construction.  The tower was to be 45 feet from the base to lantern, 20 feet diameter at the base and 10.5 feet at the top, with a 12-foot lantern deck of stone.  Walls to be 3.5 feet thick at the bottom and two feet thick at the top.
  • As of the end of 1852 the lighthouse had been contracted for and was promised for completion and lighting on 1 February 1853.  Light was actually completed on 4 November 1853.
  • The light's first keeper, appointed 25 December 1853 (effective) was Edward Havens.  His wife succeeded him on 29 June 1855 at a salary of $500 per annum.  The assistant keeper was John Reid, appointed 25 November 1858.
  • Keeper list of 1 February 1859 lists Noel Buset (or Buret).; In 1860 the keeper was M. Wilmont, appointed 26 April 1860.
  • On 13 January 1861 Confederate troops from Mississippi seized Ship Island and "all facilities" on the island.
  • The island was retaken by Union forces on 17 September 1861, and became the headquarters for the Union Navy's Gulf Blockading Squadron.  The retreating Confederate forces burned the interior of the lighthouse and removed the Fresnel lens, presumably to New Orleans.  The lighthouse was repaired and returned to service in November, 1862.  "The lens, Franklin lamps and accessories were found at Ship Island and delivered to the keeper.  The light was exhibited for the first time November 14 [1862]."  
  • Characteristic was changed from fixed white to fixed red in the 1880 Light List.
  • The old tower and keeper's dwelling were condemned in 1886 and a new tower and dwelling were completed in September, 1886.  The 1888 Light List noted: Fixed red, fourth order.  Focal plane 76 feet above sea level. . . .White, four-sided pyramid [wood construction] with a one-story dwelling alongside."
  • By 1901 the old tower had fallen into the Gulf.
  • In 1933 the light was electrified.  The characteristic was changed again to occulting red fourth order.
  • The keeper in 1938 was Alex H. Brooks.
  • Light was automated on 17 February 1950.
  • Light was deactivated in 1964.  
  • A skeleton tower was built in 1971, showing a flashing white light 84 feet above sea level.
  • The old light tower burned down in June, 1972.
  • A replica of the old tower was erected in 2000 on the old tower's foundation, sponsored by the Friends of Gulf Islands National Seashore.  The U.S. Navy Seabees did the actual construction work.
  • This replica was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.