Biloxi Lighthouse & Visitor Center
The Biloxi Lighthouse was erected in 1848 and was one of the first cast-iron lighthouses in the South. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 as a prominent landmark and navigational aid. The tower was conveyed to the city in 1968 through the Historic Surplus Property program and operates as a private navigational aid. The lighthouse was damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but was restored in 2010. Reaching a height of 64 feet, it is open for guided tours depending on the weather. The Biloxi Visitor Center is located across the street. In addition to serving as a starting point for visitors, the Center also includes several multi-media exhibits that explore the history of Biloxi and a theater that shows a short movie about the city. The Center itself opened in 2011.
Backstory and Context
The Biloxi Lighthouse, which is adjacent to the Mississippi Sound of the Gulf of Mexico, has served as a navigational aid on the Mississippi Gulf Coast for over 170 years. On March 3, 1847, the U.S. Government authorized $12,000 for the construction of a lighthouse in Biloxi, Mississippi. The U.S. Department of the Treasury signed a contract, dated October 15, 1847, to Murray & Hazlehurst to build an iron lighthouse for $6,347. The construction on the lighthouse was completed in 1848. The tower is a prefabricated, cast iron structure with a balustrade encircling the watch room.
The conical tower is believed to be the first lighthouse in the South to have been constructed of this material. The lantern, unlike most lighthouses of the period, is also constructed of cast iron rather than the usual copper. The lighthouse has withstood the ravages of time and hurricanes while masonry towers along the Mississippi coast have crumbled. The inside wall of the lighthouse is brick having been laid in a conical fashion to conform to the cast iron sections. Originally the illuminating apparatus designed by Winslow Lewis consisted of nine cast brass lamps and separate reflectors with a Fifth Order Fresnel lens.
Throughout the 90-year light keeper history, female keepers maintained the light for 74 of those years thus earning the distinction of having been maintained by female keepers for more years than any other lighthouse in the United States. The role of lighthouse keeper ended in 1939 when the light was automated. In 1941, the city of Biloxi acquired the Keeper’s Dwelling, which was used by the Chamber of Commerce until it was destroyed by Hurricane Camille in 1969.
Bailey, Robert J. "Biloxi Lighthouse." National Park Service - National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. October 3, 1973. https://npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset/218739ec-29fc-43a1-9b41-50b9fe94e8d4.
"Biloxi Lighthouse." City of Biloxi. Accessed February 4, 2021. https://biloxi.ms.us/visitor-info/museums/lighthouse.
"Biloxi Lighthouse." The Historical Marker Database. Accessed February 4, 2021. https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=102221.
"Biloxi Lighthouse." Lighthouse Friends. Accessed June 4th 2014. http://www.lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=543