In December, 1870, the current Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was lit for the first time. It shone for 66 years before it was shut down due to erosion and an inability to maintain it. For 14 years the light was dark, then, in 1950, the lighthouse was restored and a new electric light installed. In 1999, the lighthouse was moved to it’s current location.
It is said that the engineer who was originally assigned the task of painting North Carolina’s lighthouses, got the plans mixed up and the diamond-shaped figures, suitable for warning traffic away from Diamond Shoals, went to Cape Lookout and the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse received the spiral striping, thereby forever gaining the nickname ”The Big Barber Pole.”
It was built with 1,250,000 bricks baked in kilns along the James River in Virginia and brought in scows into Cape Creek where it was hauled by oxen one mile to the building site in Buxton. Its walls at the base are 14 feet of solid masonry and narrow to eight feet at the top. Weighing 6,250 tons, the lighthouse was built with no pilings under it – just a foundation built of heart pine. Towering 196 feet from the base to the top brick and then topped with an iron superstructure it become the tallest brick lighthouse on the American coast at 208 feet and at a cost of $155,000.00.
My favorite part of the lighthouse is the base. The thing that always strikes me is that in 1870 there were few people living on Hatteras and no tourism. I would expect that the building would be plain and utilitarian, built with the cheapest stone, brick and iron available, but its not.
248 iron steps.
from Carolina Outer Banks
Moving the lighthouse to it’s new home