—Historic Biloxi —
In 1848, the United States Lighthouse Service erected the South's first cast-iron lighthouse, in
Biloxi on a low sandy bluff overlooking the Mississippi Sound. The tower was fabricated by the
Murray and Hazelhurst Vulcan Works of Baltimore, Maryland and shipped to Biloxi. Its interior
lining was constructed with brick made by local artisans. The light from its white fifth-order fixed lens could be seen at a distance of 13 nautical miles.
The structure's proximity to the water made it vulnerable to erosion and tidal surge of storms
and hurricanes. A 1860 hurricane severely undermined one side of the foundation. Excavation of
the opposite side of the leaning tower set it upright again. Before the 26-mile Harrison County
seawall was completed in 1926, breakwaters of heavy timbers, brick, ballast rock, and concrete
were used at various times to hold back the gulf. Upon the completion of the man-made sand
beach and four lane highway in 1954, the lighthouse stood landlocked for the first time.
Spring oil, lard, and kerosene fueled the lamp before it was electrified in
1926. Among the six persons who tended the light were three women:
Mary Reynolds, 1854-1866; Maria Younghans, 1867-1920; and Miranda
Younghans, 1920-1929. The lighthouse came under the jurisdiction of the
U.S. Coast Guard in 1938. The establishment
of an automatic revolving
lamp eliminated the need for a light tender.
The lighthouse has provided a guiding light at night and a daytime landmark for paddle-wheel steamboats, lumber ships, oyster schooners, shrimp trawlers, and pleasure craft. Its light was denied only to Federal warships during the Civil War. The Coast Guard decommissioned the
lighthouse in 1967. lt was acquired by the City of Biloxi in 1968.
The tidal surge of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 filled
one third of the 64-foot tower. The pounding winds
and waves dislodged bricks from the interior wall
shattered windows, and destroyed the electrical
system. A 14-month $421,000 restoration project
culminated in 2010 with a rededication and
relighting ceremony. The lighthouse is a working
lighthouse and museum. The light from its fifth
order Fresnel lens is visible for 10 nautical miles.
Boat captains continue to seek its flashing beam
when approaching the Biloxi channel.
Left middle: Miranda Younghans (1853-1933), Biloxi's third and last lady lighthouse keeper, is pictured in the caretakers cottage circa 1923. Miranda became the official light keeper in 1920, but she had helped her aging mother, Maria Younghans, operate the light for several years.
Credit: Biloxi Public Library
Bottom middle: Color postcard showing the
lighthouse standing in the Highway 90 neutral ground circa 1960s.
Credit: Randazzo Collection
Bottom right: A breakwater, composed of ballast rocks, protects the Biloxi Lighthouse in this circa 1915 image. Pictured in the background, the lighthouse keeper's cottage was built in the late 19th century. It became a casualty of Hurricane Camille in 1969.
Credit: Randazzo Collection