In 1804, the US Congress authorized the building of a light house on or near where Cape Lookout is now. In 1812 the lighthouse is completed at a cost of $20,678.54. At that time it was a wood frame, octagonal tower with a brick stair case. The outside of it was shingled and painted in red and white horizontal stripes. Its mechanism had 13 lamps with 21 inch parabolic reflectors. The first keeper was paid $300 a year. In 1851, after complaints from seafarers it was evident that a taller, more stable lighthouse was needed. Attempts were made to renovate the first lighthouse but were unsuccessful so a new lighthouse would be built. In 1852, a board is created and takes controls of all aids of navigation. In 1856, the effectiveness of the lamps and lenses is in question and a new Fresnel lens is put in place. The board takes the necessary action for the new lighthouse to be built but leaves the light in place until the new tower is built. Congress appropriates $45,000 to build the new lighthouse in 1857.
November 1, 1859, Cape Lookout is opened and lighted. It is a 163 foot red brick tower. It has an iron spiral staircase that winds to the top. With the new Fresnel lens the light can be seen as far away as 18 miles in good weather. This new style tower is the first to be built along the outer banks. The old tower was then converted to the keeper’s quarters. In 1867, Congress changes the keepers wage to $600 a year and it stays at that for 50 years. In 1873, the new keeper’s quarters are completed and it housed 2 assistant keepers and their families. This is the Keeper’s Quarters Museum that you see today. The lighthouse got a new paint job which is the one you see today with the black & white checkers to distinguish it from a day marker. The lamps were fueled by mineral oil (kerosene). A radio beacon and electric equipment was installed in August, 1933. In July, 2003, the lighthouse and the grounds were transferred from the US Coast Guard to the National Park Service. In July, 2010, all repairs and inspections were done and the lighthouse was opened to the public for climbing on a regular basis for the first time in history.
Cape Lookout is located 3 miles off-shore. This island has been home to fishermen, whalers and stockmen and has had numerous shipwrecks and rescues. When you go there you need to take everything you are going to need because there is no way to get anything once you get there. Be sure you have your water, food, snacks, and other supplies you will need for the time you are going to spend on the island. While there you can watch the horses, or go shelling or fishing. You can enjoy all the different kinds of birds or climb the lighthouse. You can also tour the historic villages or camp. In the area of the lighthouse, you can tour the Keeper’s Quarters Museum, visit the Light Station Visitor Center, swim or sunbathe. The tower is the second lighthouse built near Cape Lookout and has been in this spot for over 150 years. The Keeper’s Quarters has exhibits on the lighthouse and life-saving services and exhibits on the lives of the Keeper’s history of the light. Programs about the progression of the lighthouse technology are given on the back porch.
About 2 miles south of Cape Lookout lighthouse you will find the village and several island homes along with the lookout life-saving station and a US Coast Guard Station.
Written by First Carolina, REALTORS®
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