Sand Island Light (Alabama)

Sand Island Light, also known as Sand Island Lighthouse (and historical light station), is a decommissioned lighthouse located at the southernmost point of the state of Alabama, United States, near Dauphin Island, at the mouth of Mobile Bay, Alabama. It is located roughly 3 miles offshore from the primary Mobile Bay entrance, bounded on the east by Mobile Point and on the west by Dauphin Island.[5] The lighthouse is 132 feet (40 m) high.

Sand Island Lighthouse
Sandislandal1962 300.jpg
Sand Island lighthouse - 1962
Sand Island Light (Alabama) is located in Alabama
Sand Island Light (Alabama)
LocationSand Island
Mobile County
United States
Coordinates30°11′16″N 88°03′02″W / 30.18778°N 88.05056°W / 30.18778; -88.05056Coordinates: 30°11′16″N 88°03′02″W / 30.18778°N 88.05056°W / 30.18778; -88.05056
Year first constructed1838 (first)
1859 (second)
1864 (third)
Year first lit1873 (current)
Constructionbrownstone tower
Tower shapetapered cylindrical tower with balcony and lantern
Markings / patternunpainted tower, black lantern and balcony
Tower height131 feet (40 m)
Focal height38 metre Edit this on Wikidata
Original lens1838: 14 lamps with 16-inch reflectors
1859: First order Fresnel lens
1862-63: Fourth order Fresnel lens
1873: Second order Fresnel lens, now at the Fort Morgan Museum
Range0 miles (0 km)
CharacteristicF W
Fog signalbell struck every 20 seconds
ARLHS numberUSA-723.[1][2]
Managing agentTown of Dauphin Island[3]
Heritageplace listed on the National Register of Historic Places Edit this on Wikidata
Sand Island Light
Nearest cityFort Morgan, Alabama
Arealess than one acre
Architectural styleItalianate
NRHP reference No.75000305[4]
Added to NRHPNovember 12, 1975


The first lighthouse on Sand Island, constructed by Winslow Lewis in 1837, was a 55 feet (17 m) structure completed in 1839. The lighting was provided by 14 lamps in 16 inch reflectors and a first-order lens, known as the Lewis lamp, which was a poorly designed version, or Argand-style lamp.[6] Lewis enjoyed a monopoly through his relationship with Stephen Pleasonton that lasted until 1853.[7]

The light of the lighthouse

In 1859 a new lighthouse was completed but was destroyed during the Civil War, on February 23, 1863, by Confederate John W. Glenn. The Confederate soldiers at Fort Morgan observed Union soldiers in the lighthouse, spying on the fort, and the guns of the fort open fire totally destroying the lighthouse.[5] In 1864 a 48 feet (15 m) wooden tower was built that lasted until 1873.[8]


By September 1864 the current lighthouse was completed, that included a two-story Lighthouse keepers dwelling, and the land at the time was approximately 400 acres (160 ha). The base is 28 feet (8.5 m) in diameter and 6 feet (1.8 m) thick, constructed on 171 interconnected wood pilings[9] covered with 12 feet (3.7 m) of concrete, and with a 125 feet (38 m) focal height.[10]


Sand Island itself faced continuous erosion, to the point where granite blocks were being added to the island to try and stave off the erosion and loss of the lighthouse.[5] Restoration efforts resulted primarily in stabilization of the island through 2008.[5] Sand Island Lighthouse's dire situation is similar to "its sister light", the Morris Island Lighthouse, near Charleston, South Carolina. Both lighthouses were situated on sandy islands that have eroded, leaving the towers surrounded by water.[5]


In December 2011 construction of a new island was completed. 1,400,000 yards (1,300,000 m) of sand was dredged from the sea floor and deposited around the lighthouse creating a 2,600 feet (790 m) by 500 feet (150 m), or approximately 15 acres (6.1 ha), island.[11] Less than a year later the $6,000,000 restoration of the island was washed away by Hurricane Isaac.[12]

The Dauphin Island Foundation (founded 1991) works with the Alabama Lighthouse Association acts as agent and administrator for the Sand Island Restoration Project. There are seven general directors, nine directors at large, and also includes as directors:[13]

  • Mayor, Town of Dauphin Island
  • President, Dauphin Island Property owners Association
  • President, Dauphin Island, Alabama Chamber of Commerce
  • President, Dauphin Island Water and Sewer Authority
  • President, Dauphin Island Park and Beach Board

The Sand Island Lighthouse is on the Lighthouse Digest Doomsday List, as one of the most endangered lighthouses in the country,[14] It, and the Mobile Bay lighthouse, was damaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Repairing that damage will further delay restoration efforts.[14]

The image of this lighthouse was used as a stamp cancellation.[15]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society, Sand Island (Gulf of Mexico) Light ARLHS USA-723
  2. ^ Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society, World List of Lights. Archived 2009-04-21 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Sand Island The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 6 June 2016
  4. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Sand Island, AL". Retrieved 22 April 2007.
  6. ^ Argand & Lewis Lamps- Retrieved 2017-10-15
  7. ^ Alabama Living: A history of Alabama's lighthouses, with vintage images of deactivated and existing lights- Retrieved 2017-10-15
  8. ^ Alabama Lighthouse Association: Sand Island Lighthouse- Retrieved 2017-10-15
  9. ^ Sand Island Lighthouse and drawing- Retrieved 2017-10-15
  10. ^ Dauphin Island History: History Overboard!- Retrieved 2017-10-15
  11. ^ Sand Island resurrected: Island is open to the public and tarball free- Retrieved 2017-10-15
  12. ^ Sand Island, restored a year ago, disappears after Hurricane Isaac- Retrieved 2017-10-15
  13. ^ Dauphin Island Foundation- Retrieved 2017-10-15
  14. ^ a b Rowlett, Russ. "Lighthouses of the United States: Alabama". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  15. ^ Lighthouse Stamp Society, Sand Island Light cancellation.

Further readingEdit

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