MYSTERY PHOTO:  Ornate building near a marsh

Here’s a fairly ornate building with a marsh in the background that looks like it could be a small chapel.  But it’s not.  So what is it and where is it?  Send your best guess to:  editor@charlestoncurrents.com — and make sure to include the name of the town in which you live.  Please also write “Mystery Photo” in the subject line.

Last week’s Mystery Photo of two abandoned lighthouses near McClellanville was sent in by Charleston architect Steve Coe.  Hats off to several readers, including  who recalled the two lighthouses, one smaller than the other.

Three other readers provided more info: Chris Brooks of Mount Pleasant, Susie Levisen of Folly Beach and Danny Day of Seneca, who grew up in McClellanville.  Three readers provided extra details:

Kristina Wheeler of West Ashley wrote, “Those are the lighthouses in the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge. The first lighthouse, built in 1827, was a functional disappointment because the red, whale oil wick lamp could not be seen beyond 10 or so nautical miles. Today it is one of the few remaining lighthouses of its period in the U.S. In 1853, a second lighthouse was built nearby with a light that was lit by an oil lamp, with a revolving beam visible for nearly 20 miles. They both survived Hurricane Hugo and were named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.” [Editor’s note:  The money for the second lighthouse reportedly was appropriated in 1853, but it apparently took four years to build it.]

Bill Segars of Hartsville added:  “This week your photo is of the two Cape Romain lighthouses.  Neither is in operation now and are closed to the public.  They are located in the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge several miles out from McClellanville.  The short red brick one was built in 1827, but it was too short and its light was not very powerful.  In 1857, a taller one, more than twice as tall, was built with a more powerful light.

George Graf of Palmyra, Va., sent additional information: “According to lighthousedigest.com, the first tower was established in 1827. The conical brick tower stands 65 feet in height and its light was once exhibited about 90 feet above the water.  The tower was constructed to mark the cape and warn of the dangerous shoals that have claimed the lives of many sailors. However, this lighthouse proved to be ineffective due to a poor lighting apparatus. The apparatus was changed in 1847, but the lighthouse still failed to do its job, so a second tower was needed.  Construction of the second tower was completed in 1857 by slave labor. The tower is octagonal in shape and constructed of brick. The lighthouse was fitted with a first order Fresnel lens. The tower’s light was first seen on January 1, 1858 and it proved to be effective at marking the shoals and saving lives. The lighthouse managed to survive the Civil War after being darkened by Confederates.”

Send us a mystery:  If you have a photo that you believe will stump readers, send it along (but make sure to tell us what it is because it may stump us too!)   Send it along to editor@charlestoncurrents.com.

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