Life slows down a lot when you’re on Tybee Island. The barrier island is near Savannah, Georgia, where the Savannah River flows into the Atlantic Ocean. It’s known for its sandy beaches, fishing pier at the pavilion, Fort Screven and its 18th-century lighthouse. I spent two nights on Tybee with some of my cousins. On a rainy morning, I took off the explore the Tybee Island Light Station and Museum.
The lighthouse dates back to 1773. It’s the third lighthouse built on Tybee. During the Civil War, Confederates set it on fire in 1861. The lower 60 feet of the lighthouse are part of the original lighthouse. The top 85 feet were reconstructed 1867, after the Civil War. Here’s a couple of interesting facts about the lighthouse. It is still an active aid to navigation and the U.S. Coast Guard maintains the light and lens. The light never goes out. There are two 1,000 watt bulbs in it and if one burns out, the other light automatically switches on. The Fresnel Lens intensifies the light so it can be seen as far as 18 miles out to sea. The lighthouse is 145 feet tall. Seven flags have flown over Tybee. They are the Spanish Flag in 1520, French Flag in 1605, Pirate Flag in 1700s, Confederate Flag in the 1860s and the two current flags of United States Flag and Georgia State Flag.
I climbed the 178 steps to the top. They rotate around the circular structure with platforms between each flight. It’s a dizzying, heart pumping climb. From the observation deck, you get expansive 360° view of the Atlantic Ocean, mouth of the Savannah River and across Tybee Island.
After I walked back down, I decided to explore the Tybee Island Museum next to the lighthouse. The museum is housed in Fort Screven’s Battery Garland which was constructed in 1898-1899. The Battery was part of the America’s Coastal Defense System until it was decommissioned in 1945. The lighthouse was converted to electricity in 1933. Before that, it took three light keepers to man it. Each keeper had his own house and they are still standing. I stopped first at the 2nd Assistant Keeper’s Cottage. It’s believed to be built from remains of Confederate Barracks built in 1861. The 2nd Assistant Keeper started living here in 1867.
The Head Keeper’s Cottage was built in 1881. With wood lap siding, it’s an example of Stick Style architecture. The attached summer kitchen dates back to 1812. It was actually used by all of the keepers and their families during the summer to keep the heat out of the houses in summer. In 1907 the porch was enclosed to create a bathroom and electricity was added in 1916.
You can tour this cottage. I wandered through the master bedroom, bathroom and a parlor on the main floor.
Then went upstairs and saw two rooms decorated as children’s rooms, one decorated for a boy and the other for a girl. In the girl’s room, there’s a small closet space filled with toys that must have been their playroom.
Back downstairs, I stopped in the in-house kitchen that would have been used outside of summer. It was my favorite room in the house.
I would have loved a little more time to explore more of Tybee Island’s Fort Screven district, but just as I walked out of the Head Keeper’s Cottage it started to pour. Guess I’ll have to save it for another visit!
Afterwards I grabbed a latte at Tybean Coffee Bar in the funky and cool shops at Tybee Oaks before hitting the road. It was a great end to a short stay on Tybee Island.
Author Jennifer Broome spent two nights on Tybee Island. While the weather wasn’t great with lots of rain, she did explore the gems of the island including the lighthouse, beach, pier and shops at Tybee Oaks. She also did a self-guided tour of Fort Pulaski National Monument.
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