NPS TO LOAN CAPE HATTERAS LIGHT PEDESTAL TO THE GRAVEYARD OF THE ATLANTIC MUSEUM
Contact: Outer Banks Group, (252) 473-2111
Outer Banks Group Superintendent Mike Murray announced today that the National Park Service (NPS) will proceed with a project in partnership with the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum (Museum) to restore the pedestal and additional lens panels from the Cape Hatteras Light. The project will include the removal and restoration of the pedestal from the upper levels of the lighthouse and the upper catadioptric lens panels from the Cape Hatteras Visitor Center, then NPS will loan the restored items to the Museum for display with the portions of the lens that are already at the Museum on loan. As part of the project, the U.S. Coast Guard will re-install and continue to maintain the existing DCB 2-36 beacon in the lighthouse as an active aid-to-navigation.
Since 2002, a large portion of the 1854 lens has been on loan to the Museum from the National Park Service. After three years of extensive research and more than $ 80,000 in restoration costs, this portion of the lens was reassembled and made accessible to the public for the first time in over half a century. Subsequently, it was recognized that the pedestal, currently supporting the DCB 2-36 aid-to-navigation beacon at the top of the Lighthouse, and the upper catadioptric panels, displayed in the bookstore of the Cape Hatteras Visitor Center, were important, integral elements of the historic lens. The Museum raised the funding for the pedestal restoration project and has the facility space, height, HVAC/climate control, security systems, and ADA accessibility to allow the full lens to be viewed and interpreted in its entirety by a diverse audience, including those who are physically challenged.
The Park Service opened the project proposal to public comment, and also consulted with the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). NPS received 43 public comments supporting the project, 14 comments opposed the project, and 27 people viewed the project in the NPS "parkplanning" (PEPC) website but did not submit comments. The commenters supportive of the project generally indicated their belief that the lens and pedestal were designed and manufactured to go together as a single assembly, should stay together, and the remaining pieces of lens would be best supported and conserved by reuniting it with the pedestal. Many of the same commenters also stated a strong preference that, whenever possible, a lens and pedestal assembly remain in its lighthouse of origin, but also indicated that is unrealistic in this case because of the fragile condition of the lens framing and incompleteness of the lens. Those opposed to the proposal expressed concerns about the loss of interpretive value if the pedestal were removed, concerns about removing historic fabric from the lighthouse, and concerns about a part of the lighthouse being located some place other than in Buxton at the lighthouse museum.
"In reviewing the comments, I’m impressed that many people feel strongly about the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and what they think is best for it," said Superintendent Murray. "There is a disagreement and strong opinions about what the best treatment is. The lens and pedestal assembly are priceless, irreplaceable artifacts. My goal is to do whatever will provide the best care for the lighthouse and its key components in the long run. This project presents an immediate opportunity to restore and reunite all known elements of the original First Order Fresnel lens from the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in a setting readily accessible to the public."
Both the lens and the pedestal remain National Park Service property on loan to the Museum. The existing agreement for the loan of the lens has seven years remaining on its term and will be amended to include the pedestal and additional lens panels. The loan agreement requires the Museum to meet American Association of Museum Standards in caring for the artifact. To address the concerns about the loss of interpretive opportunity at the lighthouse, the Museum will work with the Park Service to develop an interpretive exhibit so that lighthouse visitors will still have the opportunity to learn how the Fresnel lens and clockwork mechanism worked together.
As part of the consultation process required under the National Historic Preservation Act, the respective State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) has review authority over federal actions that my adversely affect historic structures and sites. As part of this process the SHPO evaluates whether removal of historic fabric will affect National Landmark or National Register status. The North Carolina SHPO recently notified the Park Service that even though the SHPO is concerned over the removal of a significant element from this National Historic Landmark, the SHPO concurs with the need for its restoration and reassembly with the lens. The SHPO concluded that there would be no adverse effect, if the following conditions are implemented:
1. The lens pedestal and clock mechanism should be treated like an artifact. All aspects of the removal, restoration, and conservation work must be handled by professional conservators or experts in this work.
2. Disassembly and removal has the potential to cause damage to the pedestal and clock mechanism and/or historic fabric of the lighthouse. The State Historic Preservation Office is concerned that many of the individual components of the pedestal are now fused together after 136 years of exposure to the marine environment. If damage to the lens pedestal, clock mechanism, or lighthouse is anticipated or occurs during the disassembly and removal process, the work must stop. At that point, further assessment must be made to determine if other methods of removal are acceptable or if the damage potential is too risky to continue. This assessment must include the National Park Service and State Historic Preservation Office.
3. The State Historic Preservation Office would like to participate with NPS staff in monitoring the disassembly and removal process.
4. This fragile artifact must be maintained in a stable, secure and protected environment. Every reasonable effort should be made to provide wind and storm surge protection to the artifact while it is on loan to the Museum.
5. There must be a guarantee that the agreement between the NPS and the Museum is a loan that can be cancelled if there appears to be threats to the lens from any source, including a storm. Given the status of the National Historic Landmark, the State Historic Preservation Office believes there should be a timeline for the return of the lens pedestal to the Lighthouse.
The project is currently planned to take place from October 10 – 23, 2006.
Did You Know?
The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the tallest brick structure ever moved. When it was built in 1870, it stood 1,500 feet from the shore. By 1999, the lighthouse was within 100 feet of the ocean. To protect it from the encroaching sea, it was moved inland a total of 2,900 feet over a 23-day period.