The Morris Island Lighthouse is half restored. And while that is a huge achievement, to stop the restoration now would be akin to putting a candle in the powerful lighthouse lantern. Let's finish the job right.
While the foundation is new and the structure no longer threatens to list into the drink, there is much more to be done - at least $2 million more.
The lantern that protects the lighting apparatus and serves as a roof needs to be replaced. Right now, it leaks, so rain enters the structure. Brackets in the gallery level are rusted, making it unsafe. Birds can get in, and their droppings are corrosive.
And the exterior masonry needs to be repaired and repainted. The sun and weather have eroded the mortar joints.
Save the Light, a nonprofit, has launched a new campaign to raise money for the repairs. Members hope that donors will be inspired by the idea of making the lighthouse virtually functional again - and by returning it to its striking appearance with new painted stripes.
The building, which stood through storms and darkness to save seafarers from running aground and sinking, warrants at least that.
The 1867 Morris Island Lighthouse, the third lighthouse built on the site, was decommissioned and replaced by the new Sullivan's Island Lighthouse in 1962. In 1965, the federal government sold it to a private citizen.
Save the Light was founded in 1999 in order to raise money to purchase the iconic structure for $75,000 and to preserve it. The organization transferred the lighthouse to the state of South Carolina through the Department of Natural Resources and leased it back for 99 years to coordinate the stabilization, erosion control and restoration.
After that, it raised money to pay for the new foundation.
Save the Light has some money left over from that project, and sales of Morris Island Lighthouse license tags generate about $40,000 a year toward the next phase. Members are planning an oyster roast on Jan. 12 to raise money. Save the Light will sponsor a half-marathon and 5K run in February and a gala and auction in March.
For $5,000, a donor can sponsor one of the lighthouse's 203 stairs. His name, or the name of someone to be honored, is engraved on a brass plaque. At least 38 have been sold.
It is impressive to think that this grassroots organization has raised more than $5 million in local, state and federal funds. Various ways to contribute are described at savethelight.org
Save the Light chairman Al Hitchcock said a major donor could put them in a position to borrow money and begin the last phase of restoration.
The Morris Island Lighthouse might not be used to signal ships any more, but it is an important - and picturesque - symbol of the Lowcountry's maritime heritage.