On Friday morning, June 21, the Cape St. George Light welcomed its 200,000th individual to climb the historic lighthouse since its reconstruction.
Fiona Huffman from Birmingham, Alabama was the history making climber. She was accompanied by her mother Stacy, older sister Sabrina and grandfather Lem Stabler. Fiona was awarded a lifetime free climbing pass, a framed commemorative certificate, and a lighthouse replica.
Fiona, 6, last year grew tall enough to climb the lighthouse in 2018 and looked forward to their annual vacation when she could again visit the lighthouse. The family visits St. George Island each year and Fiona is already looking forward to using her free climbing pass when they return in 2020.
The staff at the Lighthouse and Gift Shop has carefully tracked the number of climbers since the rebuilt lighthouse opened in 2008. On Friday, Lighthouse Keeper Tracy Evans, Gift Shop Manager Carol Talley and Executive Director Kate Aguiar were on hand to participate in the milestone and to make the presentation.
Prior to automation of the lighthouse in 1949, lighthouse keepers made thousands of climbs to the lantern room to light or extinguish the lamp and perform daily maintenance duties. After 1949, U.S. Coast Guardsmen made the occasional climb to change the batteries that operated the modern beacon. When the lighthouse was decommissioned in 1994, only the rare curiosity seeker or lighthouse enthusiast attempted the increasingly treacherous climb.
After the lighthouse collapsed on Oct. 21, 2005, the St. George Lighthouse Association led the effort to reconstruct the lighthouse. Rebuilt at the center of St. George Island to protect it from continued erosion on Little St. George, the lighthouse opened to the public in Dec. 2008. Since then, 200,000 individuals have replicated the climb up the 92 stairs and the eight-rung ladder to the top, just like the keepers of old.