Preserving History: Tybee Island Lighthouse Needs Your Support

tybee island lighthouse tower seen from north beach

Preserving History: Tybee Island Lighthouse Needs Your Support for Vital Repairs

Since 1773, the Tybee Island Lighthouse has stood tall, guiding vessels safely to harbor with its bright beacon. The historic lighthouse, which is the oldest and tallest in the state, is an icon beloved by locals and tourists alike. Climbing the light station’s winding steps and taking in the spectacular views is a fun feat that countless visitors have enjoyed for decades. The lighthouse is an important fixture in the community, and without it, Tybee would shine a little less brightly. That’s why it’s important that we all come together to support this station during its time of need.

tybee island lighthouse from meddin drive, with keepers cottage.

A routine assessment recently identified that the Tybee Light is in need of some critical repairs to ensure its continued preservation. The windows around the Fresnel lens, the roof and masonry all need repairs. The repairs will be completed in three phases.

Phase One, Two and Three

“The first phase is the curtain wall, which is the glass that goes around the light and the lens. The second phase is the drum, which is the wall that supports the curtain wall. I like to say that’s the wall that everybody hugs when they realize they’re afraid of heights. It’s the wall that’s right behind the catwalk. And then the third phase is to remove and repair damaged stucco and repaint the tower,” said Sarah Jones, the Tybee Lighthouse Historical Society executive director. 

While the lighthouse’s condition is currently stable, the situation could become dire without intervention.

“The glazing around the windows and the curtain wall is leaking, and what’s happening is that water is trickling down into the brickwork and it’s creating soft brick, which has stability issues. So if we don’t repair that curtain wall and . . . make sure that leaking stops, that brick is going to continue to deteriorate to the point where it’s no longer stable. And we don’t want that to happen. We want to get it now while we can [because] if we let it go, the greater the costs of repairing it become,” Jones explained.

The estimated cost of these vital repairs is $1.6 million, and while the historical society has a good chunk of funds saved for the project, they need public support to close the gap. 

“We receive absolutely no funding from the federal government, the state government, or the city. . . We are a private nonprofit and we have ownership of the lighthouse, but we don’t get any aid from any government entity,” she said. “Everything we make through gift store revenue or admission tickets all goes right back into the site. In the last 10 years, we’ve invested well over a million dollars into the site, and in the tower specifically, just to maintain it and keep it to the standard that is needed for the safety of our climbers.”

Jones said that the historical society has about $1.1 million saved up to dedicate to repairs, but they lack that last $500,000 that is needed to complete the project. They are working with the City of Tybee to secure a donation, but the process is ongoing. And the historical society can’t wait on grant money because that process takes about two years to complete, and the repairs must be started sooner than later. 

“The repairs will start on Nov. 1, and they’ll go through the first week of June, so it’ll be about a seven month project,” Jones stated. “The tower will only be closed for three months of that project, which will be from January through the second week of March.”

The Tybee Lighthouse Historical Society is asking for the public to consider making a donation of any size to support this project.

How You Can Help

“There are a lot of ways to contribute. [People] can go to our GoFundMe page. They can type in Tybee Island, and it’s the first thing that pops up or go to our website where there is a link to our GoFundMe, or they can donate through our website. People can become a members . . . and that will support us. They can buy a Tybee Island Lighthouse license plate. That’s not going to be an immediate relief to us . . . but in the long run that will be beneficial because that’s something that will continue to generate funds for us long term,” Jones explained.

In addition to financial donations, Jones added that people can support the lighthouse by donating their time. 

“We need as many volunteers as we can get to keep the doors open, we need them in the museum. We need them in the base of the tower, we just need friendly people to talk to the public and tell them the wonderful things about Tybee and teach people about Tybee history. We don’t ever want to underestimate our volunteerism because that’s what helps keep our doors open,” said Jones.

For anyone unable to contribute financially in a big way, Jones invites them to come visit.

“Come and remind yourself why the lighthouse is important. Come climb the steps and go out on the catwalk. Spend an afternoon touring the grounds and seeing one of the most intact light stations in the nation,” she stated.

For those who can contribute financially, Jones says that no donation is too small, and she hopes that the community will support the lighthouse in its time of need.

“The Tybee Lighthouse is Tybee’s icon. So many of our businesses use it on their logo. The city uses it as their logo. It’s part of Tybee. We do our best to not ask for money unless we absolutely have to. We try to be self-sustaining and self-sufficient. Now that we’ve gotten to the point where we need money, we need the community to really step up and help us out and show the love.”

To support the lighthouse, make a donation via their GoFundMe or their website, and be sure to spread the word so that this local treasure continues to stand proud for years to come. 

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