Timeline: Craney Island Lighthouse

1857: The Lighthouse Board recommends building a small screwpile lighthouse for a price of $10,000-$12,000 to replace the lightship that had served the station since 1820.

1859: The lightship is replaced by a square wooden structure on a screwpile foundation.

1861: The Confederates remove the lens & destroy the lighthouse.

1862: On June 23, 1862, the Chairman of the Lighthouse Board orders Assistant Lighthouse Engineer G. Caster Smith to inspect the damage of the lighthouse. He reports that only nine foundation screwpiles remain. On July 14, G. Caster Smith orders a temporary light be installed on the remaining foundation. Keepers were instructed to raise the light at sunset and lower the light at sunrise.

1863: The lighthouse is repaired, renovated, refitted and is back in operation.

1874: The exterior of the lighthouse is painted, along with the interior. The fog bell apparatus is moved from the north end of the lighthouse to the center of the roof on the east side. A new weight box is also constructed.

1883: The Lighthouse Board reports that the lighthouse is decayed and leaks every time that it rains. New lumber and millwork are purchased for the construction of a new lighthouse. The construction of a new hexagonal superstructure is started in August at Lazaretto Depot.

1884: The new superstructure is completed in January. Lighthouse Tender Jessamine delivers the superstructure to the site and assists with the rebuilding of the lighthouse on the old foundation. Work commenced on March 25 and is completed April 22. The old lens and fog bell are also replaced.

1890: In July and August, a new platform is built under the lighthouse for storage of fuel. A new main gallery post was also installed to replace a post that was damaged by a passing vessel. New piping is also installed for water tanks.

1898: The characteristic of the light is changed from a fixed white light to flashing white every five seconds on August 20.

1915: On July 2, a barge of the New York, Philadelphia & Norfolk Railroad breaks away from the tow line of the tug, Henrico, of the Southern Transportation Company and collides with the lighthouse. The estimated cost of repairs is $150, which will be paid by the U.S. Government.

1917: Head Keeper Charles A. Sterling rescues members of the crew from the yacht, Joan III, of Norfolk, Virginia, from drowning and the yacht is towed to the harbor.

1918: Assistant Keeper John E. Stubbs saves three young men from drowning after their small boat capsizes.

1920: Rip-rap stone is placed at the lighthouse for protection at a cost of $6,000.

1924: On July 26, Head Keeper Charles A. Sterling, assists in rescuing passengers of the steamer, Gratitude, which sank immediately after the rescue.

1925: Head Keeper Charles A. Sterling, is awarded the silver lifesaving medal in August by the Secretary of the Treasury.

1927: On December 29, Head Keeper Charles A. Sterling rescues five crew members from the burning motor launch, Defiance. He returned to rescue an additional crew member that was unconscious and administers life-saving measures after returning with the crew member to the lighthouse. The man fully recovered in a few minutes.

1928: Head Keeper Charles A. Sterling is awarded a second silver lifesaving medal for his heroic measures in the Defiance recues the prior year.

1936: The lighthouse is deactivated and replaced by an automated light on the original screwpile foundation.

1970: The automated light is removed in the early 1970’s and replaced by a buoy.


1. Annual Report of the Lighthouse Board, various years.
2. Annual Report of the Secretary of the Treasury, various years.
3. Forgotten Beacons, Patrick Hornberger & Linda Turbyville, 1997.
4. Screwpiles, The Forgotten Lighthouses, Larry Saint, Karla Smith, John H. Sheally II, Phyllis Speidell, 2018








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