The Ladders Have Arrived!

In order to complete the next phase of work (replacing the unsafe cast iron stairs), we need to have access to the top of the tower so that the stairs can be replaced from the top to the bottom. It’s the only way to safely complete the work. So with the interior of the lighthouse totally off limits, we have to be able to get to the top of the tower from the exterior. Lighthouse Island is accessible only by boat, and even then there is no dock or boat landing.


Don’t forget your galoshes!

Even if it were easy to bring a crane or high lift out here, it wouldn’t be appropriate. This area is a Class 1 Wilderness Area and is home to fragile ecosystems and rare flora and fauna. We needed a low impact method for repairing the tower. So, structural engineer John Moore of 4SE, Inc. designed a system of ladders and platforms to provide safe access to the top of the lighthouse.



Division 5, a steel fabricator near Charleston, generously donated the custom ladders for this project. They have been delivered to McClellanville and are currently awaiting installation.


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Lantern Tie Downs

Our structural engineer, John Moore, has passed along a writeup about the lantern tie downs that he designed. Tommy Graham, a restoration contractor who has spearheaded the effort to preserve the lighthouses, installed this work in 2013.

From John:

Tommy Graham and I both agreed that one of the most important and one of the easiest tasks for the lighthouse would be to tie the lantern down to the masonry portion of the tower below. Its connection to the top was precarious, and we were worried the lantern could be blown off the tower by the next passing hurricane, thus losing the lantern and then having the top of the tower exposed, letting the elements into the tower and accelerating the deterioration of all the parts.

The top of the wall where the lantern was originally tied down to masonry is thin, cracked, and being greatly affected by the original rusting (and expanding) iron rod ties embedded in the top of the wall. Our tie down system consisted of three rods connected to the perimeter of the lantern roof, which were then connected to a cable at the turntable level and which extended down a central hole and below into the hollow main stair post of the tower. The cable extended all the way to the bottom of the post and was connected there; thus the lantern’s tendency to blow off was resisted by the weight of the center post and all the treads. When Tommy went to do the work, he simplified the design by connecting the cable to a pair of beams two platforms below the turntable, therefore using the weight of the masonry tower for resistance. We then strengthened the wall below the lantern by adding wood bracing in the top of the tower (a compression ring) and strapping on the outside (a tension ring). 

On my last trip to the lighthouse we took the measurements for all the parts of the work and Hillary King drew it all up. Tommy did the work himself in a great feat of climbing and craftsmanship!


Before the work.


The tie downs extend diagonally through the lantern. The top of the masonry has been strapped together.


Tommy actually camped at the top of the lighthouse to avoid having to climb the unsafe staircase more than once. That’s some dedication!



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Saving lighthouse one man’s passion                                                                                           Post and Courier                                                                                                                     December 28, 2011

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1873 Murder Mystery at the Lighthouse

Follow the link to read about a real life murder mystery at the Cape Romain Lighthouse:

Lighthouse Murder Mystery


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Tidbits: Little Stories of the Village and Parish

*This post consists of excerpts from an article in Origins, a McClellanville newsletter. It has been posted with the author’s permission. I have chosen excerpts relating to the lighthouses and shipwrecks along Cape Romain.

Tidbits: Little Stories of the Village and Parish

Extracted from The Georgetown Times

By D.L. Woerner, Ed. by Selden B. Hill

October 21, 1893

On Sunday last, Capt. Henry Williams, of the schooner Encore, reached McClellanville, where he reported the loss of his vessel at Bulls Bay during the late gale. All of the crew were drowned except himself and he was very much bruised and exhausted; he was three days in getting to that place. None of the bodies have been found yet. The vessel and the crew hailed from this port and traded between this place and the Santees. This vessel was wrecked during the August storm, but Capt. Henry managed to raise her from a watery grave, only to of to pieces at a later date.

November 24, 1894

The tug W.P. Congdon picked up off the bar this afternoon Capt. F.T. Pennington and twelve men of the steamship Ozama, bound from Philadelphia to Charleston, in ballast. Capt. Pennington reports that at 7:30 p.m., on November 21 his steamer struck on Cape Romain Shoals and stove a hole in the engine room compartment. The water, quickly filling the fire rooms, rendered the engines useless. The steamer floated off the shoals soon after striking, and at 2 a.m. sunk in six and a half fathoms of water. Romain light bearing northwest, six miles distant. The crew all took to the boats saving only part of their clothing. The engineer with ten men, went off to board the steamer Planter, from Charleston for this port, but missed her, as it is supposed they have gone to Romain Beach. The steamer will be a total loss. The captain and twelve men will go to Charleston tomorrow by the steamer Planter.

November 28, 1894

Six of the crew of the ill-fated steamer Ozama are missing. They are known to have left the wreck in an open boat and have not been heard of since. Yesterday the steam launch of the buoy tender Wisteria left for the vicinity of Cape Romain, and will search every likely place for these men before returning.

October 10, 1896

The steamer Eutaw of the South Carolina Steamboat Company, which got blown in the marsh near McClellanville by the recent storm, has been floated. Captain Hubbard with the Planter and a force of hands did the work expeditiously and safely.

March 9, 1901

While on her way to Charleston last Wednesday, the steamer Planter, in command of Capt. Bennett, sighted the schooner Mattie A. Franklin, with distress colors flying and upon going to her assistance, found that she was hard and fast on Cape Romain.The vessel was in such a condition that nothing could be done for her, so Capt. Bennett took the captain and crew aboard the steamer Planter and carried them to Charleston. As soon as Mr. Moses, the general manage of this line of steamers heard of the condition of the vessel he ordered the steamer Eutaw to go to her at once and render what assistance she could. It is expected that everything of any value will be removed from the schooler by the Eutaw, as her position is considered so dangerous that she had to be abandoned by her crew. The Mattie A. Franklin was a three masted schooner of 552 tons and was bound for Jacksonville, Fla., from South Amboy with six hundred tons of coal. There was no insurance on the vessel or cargo.

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New hope for Cape Romain’s lighthouse
Post and Courier
February 22, 2014

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