Cape Lookout Village

Beginning at the Cape Lookout Light Station and continuing south toward the point of the cape, is a nearly 810 acre area designated as the Cape Lookout Village Historic District. In addition to the light station, the historic district includes the former Cape Lookout Life-Saving Station, the decommissioned Cape Lookout Coast Guard Station, the remains of a WWII Army coastal defense complex, as well as several former fishing cottages and vacation homes.
Aerial view of Cape Lookout Village with Coast Guard Station in center.
Aerial photo of Cape Lookout Village with Coast Guard Station in center.

With the exception of the Cape Lookout Lighthouse and Cape Lookout Life-Saving Station personnel, the village area saw no permanent residents until the twentieth century.

Prior to September 1933, the present day islands of South Core Banks and Shackleford Banks were connected to one another near the lighthouse area. While fishing and whaling seasons brought short term residents to the bight of the cape to reside in beach-side camps, permanent settlement focused on Shackleford Banks which had been home to various communities as far back as the early 1700s.

By the early 1900s, after particularly disastrous hurricane seasons in 1896 and 1899, the settlements on Shackleford Banks were mostly abandoned. While many residents moved across the sound to Harkers Island or other locations, a few of the fishing families from Shackelford Banks moved to an area between the Cape Lookout Lightstation and the Cape Lookout Life-Saving Station. This was the birth of Cape Lookout Village.

Through the early part of the twentieth century, the village hit its peak, boasting as many as 80 residents. Cape Lookout Village had its own school and from 1910 to 1911 had its own post office. Cape Lookout Village’s hey-day, like its post office, would be short lived.

As early as 1905, the Cape Lookout Life-Saving Station logbooks mention “gasoline boats” or motorboats in the area. The whine of their engine would be a death knell for the nearby village. Motor boats made amenities in nearby Harkers Island or Beaufort more accessible to the residents of Cape Lookout Village. It also made the waters these fishing families used to make a living accessible from those locations. This advancement in technology led to a decline in population in the village as more and more residents left to live on the neighboring islands or mainland where they would be closer to services but could still fish the cape thanks to their motorboats.

Seifert-Davis House
Seifert-Davis House

At the end of the 1919 term, Cape Lookout Village’s school closed its doors. A visitor to the village in 1921 noted that only two or three families remained. It was the end of an era for Cape Lookout Village as few remained to call it home. But for others, it was the beginning of making the islands their home-away-from-home.

While the bight of Cape Lookout continued to attract local attention as a popular fishing area, by the 1920s, the area also began to attract attention as a vacation destination. The motorboats that allowed the former residents to move elsewhere also made the islands more accessible for those seeking recreation. What homes remained on the island began to be used by these tourists as well as locals as weekend or summer cottages. In 1913, a proposed resort community headed by the Cape Lookout Development Company had begun selling lots on the island but the development was never fully realized. In 1928, one of the first vacation homes built by someone from outside the area was completed: the Seifert-Davis or “Coca-Cola” House, which remains standing today. Many of the homes still remaining in the village date from this period of growth as the era of tourism and recreation at Cape Lookout began.

World War II era personnel look over a clipboard.

During World War II, Cape Lookout Village became home to a military presence as the bight was used to shelter convoys heading for Europe. To protect ships making use of the natural harbor, a submarine net was strung across the bight while nearly 400 acres near the Coast Guard Station were appropriated for wartime purposes. A battery of the 193rd Field Artillery was sent to the cape and two gun mounts were constructed. The 1st Battalion 244th Coastal Artillery served at Cape Lookout until 1942 when a battalion from the 2nd Coastal Artillery replaced them. Members of the 2nd began to be sent to other commands in late 1943. By early 1944, there were no remaining Army personnel stationed at Cape Lookout.

Following WWII, year-round occupancy at Cape Lookout Village again declined, giving way to continued tourist and recreational use of the village area.

Resort development of the village was again proposed in the 1950s and 1960s. Also at this time, the state of North Carolina began making plans for a proposed state park on the barrier islands south of Cape Hatteras National Seashore. What was hoped to become a state park would eventually become Cape Lookout National Seashore.

Last updated: March 1, 2017

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131 Charles St
Harkers Island, NC 28531


252 728-2250

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