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Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Buxton, NC

Completed in 1870, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse consists of an approximately 21-foot tall octagonal base, built of brick with stone quoins, resting on a four-step stone plinth and capped with a stone cornice. A 130-foot tall tapered, circular brick shaft rises from the base, capped by a lantern with a balcony supported by elaborate cast iron brackets. The lighthouse's 180-foot high focal plane is the tallest in the United States. Following the completion of the new lighthouse, the old lighthouse was demolished. Leftover bricks were used to construct the Principal Keeper's Quarters, which was occupied in 1871. The lighthouse's distinctive black spiral daymark was first painted in 1873.

An oil house was built adjacent to the lighthouse in 1892, made obsolete by the lighthouse's electrification in 1934. By that time. coastal erosion had become a concern, with 900 feet of steel groins installed in 1930 to protect the lighthouse. In 1936, with the erection of a 150-foot skeleton tower 1 1/2 miles away, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was abandoned by the Lighthouse Board, and the light extinguished. Jurisdiction for the lighthouse and its associated structures was transferred to the NationalPark Service later that year, and Cape Hatteras National Seashore was designated by Congress in 1937. Beginning in January 1942, the lighthouse was used as a watchtower by the U.S. Coast Guard. Left unsecured by the Coast Guard following World War II, the lighthouse's Fresnel lens was substantially vandalized, and subsequently removed in 1949.

A new lamp was installed in the lighthouse in 1951, which was, in turn, replaced by the current rotary beacon in 1972. Meanwhile, seacoast erosion continued despite remediation efforts, threatening the existence of the lighthouse. Finally, in 1988, following decades of studies and proposals, a National Academy of Sciences report recommended relocation of the lighthouse as the most cost effective method of protection. In 1999, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and its associated structures were moved approximately half a mile to their current locations, with the lantern relit on 13 November.

Visit the Cape Hatteras National Seashore website for more information.

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