A panoply of possibilities awaits anyone who wants to cherish a souvenir of their visit here. The Harbour Town Lighthouse has, for decades, presented Hilton Head Island’s most unusual place for browsing, the Shoppe at the Top, and the view that beckons beyond those shelves makes the 114 steps a real pilgrimage. People gladly tell their friends about getting there. The selection they discover includes memorable items that can’t be found anywhere else. The Shoppe at the Top was just the beginning.
In 2007, Club Group founder Mark King commissioned a writer and local historian, Porter Thompson, to compose and curate a collection of exhibits for each of the landings that mark a pause in the climb to the top of the lighthouse. Updated continually since then, the “museum” aspect of the Harbour Town Lighthouse and Museum informs and fascinates folks with true tales that range from the prehistoric residents of our island to the creation of the Heritage Classic. Even the Coast Guard has designated the lighthouse an official Coast Guard Museum for its ability to engage and educate while entertaining visitors and residents alike.
From Souvenirs to Keepsakes
In 2013, Mark King and Lighthouse Keeper Nadia Wagner envisioned and created a ground-floor array called the Maritime Gift Galley that offers true keepsakes, including a distinguished collection of memorabilia comprising compasses, globes, navigational instruments, and writing instruments. Books by famed local authors and art photography by resident artist Jeff Keefer of VIVID Gallery are also here for take-home consideration.
With such a wide range of souvenirs, keepsakes, and memorabilia available, it is difficult to imagine a time when the Harbour Town Lighthouse was an empty 93-foot cylinder with a staircase. And yet, for many years in the beginning, that’s what people found here.
What They Took It to Mean
In fact, in 1985, one of the couples who count the Harbour Town Lighthouse as part of their own legend wandered by while on a golf getaway with friends. Until that day, they considered themselves simply good friends, too. Martha and Glenn saw nothing at the entrance to the lighthouse but a simple sign, dangling from a small chain across the door. They don’t remember whether the sign said, “No Admission” or “No Admittance.” Thankfully, they took it to mean just that there was no charge to go in and climb the stairs.
At the top, in those pre-shop days, what Martha and Glenn discovered was their first kiss. Two years later they were married, and not long ago they celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary. Their story reminds us that what folks take home from their visit to the Harbour Town Lighthouse is richer than a souvenir or even a keepsake.
The Lasting Warmth Within
Just one of thousands of stories, maybe hundreds of thousands, of how people saw things differently after seeing the view from the Harbour Town Lighthouse, Martha and Glenn remind us that what we bring home from here is a warmth within. Whether it is the view, the sincerity of the welcome they get from Lighthouse Keeper Nadia Wager, something they learn on the way up the stairs, or someone they see as they approach the entrance, a visit here gives people something to cherish. It was that way even before the shops appeared. And we are reminded every day that it carries on now in each succeeding generation.
Come see what is here for you. We look forward to your visit.