For more than a century, a lighthouse has stood as a beacon and as a nod to Bolivar Peninsula’s history and a group of area residents is working hard to remind visitors and locals of the importance of the landmark.
The “Light Up Bolivar” campaign is the Bolivar Peninsula Cultural Foundation’s program to enhance community pride by selling replica cement lighthouses resembling Bolivar Point Lighthouse. Through the campaign, the replica lighthouses are being erected at homes and businesses on the peninsula.
A lighthouse was first erected at Port Bolivar in 1852, but was dismantled in 1861 when Confederate soldiers took the metal sections from the exterior of the lighthouse and used them as plating for ships or melted them down to produce military armaments during the Civil War.
Congress appropriated $40,000 in 1865 to rebuild the lighthouse as a guiding light to seafaring ships, according to lighthouse friends.com. The 117-foot iron tower, painted black with white stripes, was commissioned in 1872, and for 61 years it stood as a “beacon of safety and security.”
The lighthouse is credited with saving lives. During the 1900 Storm, people survived the horrific hurricane inside the lighthouse, and in 1915, 61 people were saved from 126 mph hurricane winds by escaping to the structure and assembling two by two up the spiral staircase.
In 1933, the lighthouse was declared obsolete and sold to the family of rancher Elmer Boyt and his sister Ila Maxwell for $5,500. The family still owns the lighthouse and is trying to raise funds to repair and restore the structure.
After Hurricane Ike devastated the area in 2008, the community wanted to do something to reignite local pride, said Anne Willis, a Bolivar Peninsula resident and member of the cultural foundation. They came up with the idea of the lighthouse replicas and found a company to manufacture them.
The unpainted concrete replicas are available in two sizes: a 3-foot-tall model for $150 and a larger 6-foot-tall one for $275, said Marsha Fredenburg, cultural foundation member. About 75 lighthouses have been sold or donated across the peninsula through the campaign, she said.
The art pieces are heavy, said Tim Byrom, owner of Brint Construction Co., who helps by delivering them to people who have purchased one for their home or office. Because they weigh more than 700 pounds, he uses a forklift to take the lighthouses to their new locations and recommends their owners construct a concrete slab to set them on.
“They are not going anywhere,” Willis said. “They are solid.”
Bolivar Peninsula businesses and homeowners have been buying and decorating them with whimsical underwater scenes, rainbows of color or reproductions of the original lighthouse with black and white stripes. Some are painted in alma mater school logos or colors and others have been decorated with tiles in mosaic patterns. Byrom painted his red to match his office colors: red shirts, red trucks, red building and now a red lighthouse. Crenshaw Elementary School is working on its lighthouse with help from students.
The Bolivar Peninsula Cultural Foundation, which uses art and music to promote the history of the Bolivar Peninsula, meets monthly. In fact, foundation members will choose the best decorated lighthouse at its next meeting.
“The lighthouse is our history,” Willis said. “People notice these lighthouses. And when you see one, you think of Bolivar.” ￼