The first beam of light was seen shining from Alabama Middle Bay Lighthouse on the night of December 1, 1885, and the unique structure still surprises and delights all who find their way to it today.
Alabama Middle Bay Lighthouse – Unusual Lighthouse!
When asked to imagine a lighthouse, most will picture a tall pillar resembling those in countless paintings. It would be no wonder if they were surprised to see Alabama Middle Bay Lighthouse. This lighthouse is completely different – lighthouses of its kind are extremely rare. Of the nearly 100 that once existed, only nine survive today.
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Instead of a tower on land, this lighthouse is a white clapboard cottage on the water atop seven crab-like legs. There’s a support beam directly beneath the structure and an additional beam at each corner. The lantern was once housed in a cupola, or smaller dome centered on top of the house.
A Screwpile Lighthoues
Alabama Middle Bay Lighthouse is called a screwpile lighthouse because the bottom of each beam looks like a screw that is augured into the ground for stability. The design reached the height of its popularity soon after the Civil War when the Lighthouse Board decided screwpile lighthouses were the best-suited option for bays, sounds and rivers.
A Cow in the Bay
If visitors could step inside the still existing keeper’s quarters, they’d see wooden floors and a dormer window. They might think it was just an oddly shaped room of a country home, but one look out the window would prove this is no ordinary place. Even still, in 1916 a baby was born there, and the keeper and his wife continued their unusual lives on the water. When the new mother was unable to nurse the infant, the keeper found a creative solution. He had a milk cow delivered to the lighthouse and made a corral to house the bovine right there in the bay with them.
Alabama Middle Bay Lighthouse Keeper
Keepers had to make frequent trips up the narrow staircase to wind the weight driven clockwork assembly, perhaps as often as every two hours. He or she also needed to ensure that the Fresnel lens had oil for fuel. It could all be dangerous work – in 1916 a hurricane forced evacuation and the lighthouse was damaged but not destroyed. Until the lantern was automated in 1935, taking care of Middle Bay Lighthouse was a challenging way of life.
Alabama Middle Bay Lighthouse’s Future
Middle Bay Lighthouse shone its light into the bay for 82 years, and it’s a treasure that needs to be preserved. It was decommissioned in 1967, and the Coast Guard was then given permission to demolish the structure. Fortunately, the lighthouse was saved because it was still serving as a daytime navigational marker in the 35-mile passage.
The National Register of Historic Places added the Alabama Middle Bay Lighthouse to its list in 1975, and the Middle Bay Centennial Commission completed a project to restore the lighthouse for the 100th anniversary celebration on December 1, 1985. The Alabama Lighthouse Association is now in charge of preserving Middle Bay Lighthouse, and the organization is dedicated to protecting its unique and fascinating history for many years to come.