Steve's Newsroom Blog: Biloxi lighthouse stands tall through the years

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -  The Biloxi lighthouse is one of those special landmarks I love to look at.

And I suspect I'm not alone.

I drive by the 61 foot cast iron lighthouse tower at least twice a day, going to and from work. It is a remarkable structure which has weathered countless storms and hurricanes over the years, including standing tall against the worst Katrina could offer.

Mind you, the lighthouse did sustain a few scars in the monster storm.  Some of the bricks inside the tower were broken loose by the relentless flood waters. There's at least one broken window atop the tower and the rusty fence is in bad disrepair.

But the City of Biloxi is about to deliver a much needed restoration project to this proud icon that has guarded the beach since 1848.  Bids will soon be delivered for a lighthouse facelift.  Bricks will be restored, the lighthouse painted and electrical system repaired and upgraded.

The work should begin by early summer and be finished by the end of this year.

With any luck, tours of the lighthouse may resume by next Spring.

If you've never been in the top of the lighthouse, you should check it out once tours resume. I climbed the 55 stairs plus one small ladder to the top just a few days ago.

You see, I'm working on a special report about the lighthouse that will air this week. Be looking for the stories on the 6pm news Wednesday, March 25th and Thursday the 26th.

History is one of my favorite subjects and the Biloxi lighthouse is chock full of historical tid bits, legends and lore.

Did you know that women were the lighthouse keepers for many of the decades when the light had to be tended?  The wick which produced the lighthouse light initially burned "lard" or animal fat.  Later, kerosene replaced the lard, since the fat had a tendency to congeal during the cold of winter.

My favorite story about the lighthouse is a legend involving Abraham Lincoln.

The story goes that the lighthouse was painted black as a symbol of mourning for the President after he was shot to death.

Not a bad story; but it's not true.

Yes, the lighthouse was painted black, but the timing was pure coincidence.  It had nothing to do with Lincoln. It was painted with black tar as a rust proofing measure.

The tar was subsequently removed, after ship captains complained that it made the lighthouse blend in with the pine trees.

A flag has flown from the top of the Biloxi lighthouse since Katrina.  I'm sure that symbol of strength and resilience has been captured in countless photographs.  I took one of my favorite pictures of the flag draped lighthouse at sunset.

To me, the lighthouse is "the" symbol of Biloxi and her people.

I can't wait until she's repaired and restored.

Don't forget to check out my stories on the lighthouse this week, March 25th and 26th at 6pm.

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