Cape Romain Lighthouses

SE of McClellanville on Lighthouse Island, McClellanville, South Carolina


Cape Romain Lighthouses, 1857 Lighthouse

South Carolina Department of Archives and History

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Lighthouse Island, historically known as Racoon Key, in the Cape Romain Wildlife Refuge, is the site of two lighthouses built in 1827 and 1857 by the United States Government. Constructed to warn shipping traffic of the Cape Romain shoals nine miles southeast of the island, the beacons provided constant protection, with the exception of the Civil War period, from 1827-1947. The lighthouses are significant for their major role in navigation and transportation in Charleston County and for their unique designs. The 1827 lighthouse was a sixty-five foot conical brick tower painted black and white for daytime visibility. The focal plane was 87.5 feet above sea level and the beam was visible for 18 miles. The second lighthouse, built in 1857, was a 150 foot octagonal, pyramidal tower with a focal plane of 161 feet above sea level. The first order Fresnel lens system cast a beam visible for nineteen miles. Originally natural brick, the tower was later painted with the bottom half white and the top half black and white for daytime use. The interior features an iron spiral staircase leading to the lamp house. The lamp house retains its revolving lamp platform, exterior balcony with iron railing and circular brass roof. Keepersí residences and other support buildings associated with the later lighthouse were destroyed in 1947 when the lighthouse was last lit. Listed in the National Register November 12, 1981. - SCDAH

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on November 12, 1981
Reference number
Areas of significance
Engineering; Transportation
Level of significance
Evaluation criteria
A - Event; C - Design/Construction
Property type
Historic function
Periods of significance
1850-1874; 1825-1849
Significant years
1827; 1857
Number of properties
Contributing structures: 2

Update Log 

  • August 18, 2014: Photo imported by Michael Miller
  • July 10, 2014: Updated by Michael Miller: Added "Description"