The beacon that served as the front range light was apparently heavily damaged or destroyed during the Civil War, as a new movable beacon was built following that conflict. After extensive repairs, Sapelo Island Lighthouse returned to service on the evening of April 15, 1868, along with the beacon, which was mounted on a fifty-foot frame tower located 660 feet southeast of the lighthouse. The beacon’s tower was placed on a 100-foot tramway so it could be easily moved to track changes in the offshore channel.
In 1874, the Lighthouse Board noted that the front beacon was “old and infected with dry-rot,” and as it would be cheaper to rebuild it then repair it, $2,500 was requested for a new one. Congress appropriated $2,500 on July 31, 1876 for rebuilding the front beacon, and plans and specifications were made for a new iron tower. The current twenty-five-foot-tall metal tower was placed in operation in 1877. In 1882, the front light was moved some distance seaward, which increased the usefulness of the range by making it more sensitive to movements by mariners.
On October 2, 1898, the most powerful hurricane to ever strike Georgia came ashore near Cumberland Island. The storm killed at least 179 people, and on Sapelo Island, the storm surge covered the floor of the second story of the keeper’s dwelling and submerged the oil house. The iron tower likely weathered the storm in good shape, but in February 1899, “the front beacon was dismantled and the range discontinued.”
The tower must have been reassembled at some point, as the Coast Guard reportedly used it during World War II as a lookout for German submarines. Today, the ornate tower is located 600 feet east of the 1820 brick tower and received a fresh coat of paint when the State of Georgia restored Sapelo Island Lighthouse in 1998.