Sand Island? While that appellation was certainly applicable when the first lighthouse was built on the island, today a more appropriate name for the remaining small patch of terra firma surrounding the present lighthouse would be Granite Block Island. The island’s size exceeded 400 acres in the 1800s, but today, it is has shrunk to less than one acre.
Sand Island is located roughly three miles offshore from the primary Mobile Bay entrance, which is bounded on the east by Mobile Point and on the west by Dauphin Island. On May 23, 1828, Congress empowered the Secretary of the Treasury to place an “iron spindle” lighthouse on the outer bar of Mobile Bay. The tower, visible from a distance of six miles, was completed in 1830.
Mariners soon complained about the inadequacy of the lighthouse, and on March 3, 1837 Congress responded with an allotment of $10,000 for an improved lighthouse on Sand Island. The lighthouse, built by Winslow Lewis, rose to a height of fifty-five feet and was fitted with fourteen lamps backed by sixteen-inch reflectors. Lewis completed the project under budget, returning $1,101 to the government. John McCloud served as the first keeper of the lighthouse, which was outshone by the more powerful Mobile Point Lighthouse and was thus considered a second-class beacon.
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