Lighthouses of the United States: North Carolina

The coast of the U.S. state of North Carolina is a chain of sandy barrier islands, called banks, enclosing shallow lagoons called sounds. From Cape Lookout northward the banks are widely separated from the mainland and are called the Outer Banks. The state's three great capes, Cape Hatteras, Cape Lookout, and Cape Fear, extend underwater as dangerous shoals, and the area around Cape Hatteras has earned its name as the Graveyard of the Atlantic. Several of America's tallest and best known lighthouses were built to warn ships away from this dangerous coast.

All but one of the cottage screwpile lighthouses of the North Carolina sounds have been lost, but two replicas have been built: the town of Plymouth rebuilt the 1866 Roanoke River lighthouse, and the town of Manteo rebuilt the 1857 Roanoke Marshes Light. The 1887 Roanoke River lighthouse, the only original screwpile lighthouse surviving, has been saved and restored at Edenton.

Preservation efforts in North Carolina got a huge boost in 1999 through the well-publicized relocation of the Cape Hatteras Light, and the Outer Banks Lighthouse Society has worked hard to raise interest in the work needed at the other lighthouses. Major restoration has been completed at Currituck Beach Light, Cape Hatteras Light, and Bald Head Island Light and work is nearing completion in 2012 at the Bodie Island Light (shown in the photo at right). Similar work will be needed at the Cape Lookout Light.

Navigational aids in the United States are operated by the U.S. Coast Guard, but ownership (and sometimes operation) of historic lighthouses has been transferred to local authorities and preservation organizations in many cases. In North Carolina, all the historic lighthouses are now in National Park Service or local ownership.

ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS World List of Lights, Admiralty numbers are from volume J of the Admiralty List of Lights & Fog Signals, and USCG numbers are from Vol. II of the U.S. Coast Guard Light List.

General Sources
Outer Banks Lighthouse Society
OBLS is an advocate for all of North Carolina's lighthouses; the Society's web site has great photos and current information.
North Carolina Lighthouses
Great photos and historical accounts by Kraig Anderson.
Online List of Lights - North Carolina
Photos by various photographers posted by Alex Trabas.
Lighthouses of North Carolina
Photos and accounts by Stephen Wilmoth, the "Beach Bum."
Lighthouses in North Carolina
Photos available from Wikimedia.
Lighthouses in North Carolina, United States
Aerial photos posted by Marinas.com.
Coast Guard Lighthouses - North Carolina
Historic photos with notes.
National Maritime Inventory - North Carolina
National Park Service inventory of North Carolina lighthouse data.
The Lost Lights
Historical article by Thomas Yocum in the May 1999 issue of Our State, describing lost lighthouses of the North Carolina sounds.
Leuchttürme USA auf historischen Postkarten
Historic postcard images posted by Klaus Huelse.

Bodie Island Light
Bodie Island Light, Nags Head, April 2011
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Chris M

Albemarle Sound Lighthouses

Chowan County Lighthouse
* Roanoke River (2)
1887. Inactive since 1941. 35 ft (11 m) square cylindrical wood tower with lantern and gallery, rising from a 2-story wood keeper's house, originally mounted on a screwpile foundation. The original 4th order Fresnel lens was mounted in the tower until recently; it is now in storage for later display. Originally located near the western end of Albemarle Sound off the mouth of the Roanoke River, about 6 miles (10 km) northeast of Plymouth. The lighthouse was relocated in 1955 to downtown Edenton (on the other side of Albemarle Sound) and used first as a rental property and then, from 1960, as the private residence of Emmett Wiggins. After the death of Mr. Wiggins in 1995, the house remained vacant and deteriorating, as seen in the photos on Anderson's page. In May 2005 the Lighthouse Preservation Society of Newburyport, Massachusetts, secured an option to purchase the lighthouse, but nothing came of this effort. Lighthouse Digest placed the lighthouse on the Doomsday List and printed Tim Harrison's September 2006 article on the deteriorated lighthouse. In early 2007 the lighthouse was purchased by the Edenton Historical Commission for $225,000, and in May it was relocated by barge to Colonial Park on the Edenton waterfront. Tom Wicker's January 2010 photo, a December 2007 photo by Jean Davis Olecki, an April 2009 photo by Patsy Wooters, and Google's satellite view (as of June 2013) show the lighthouse still on its moving dolly. In 2009, $1.2 million in federal stimulus money was allocated to permanently site the lighthouse on pilings and restore its exterior. Work began in the spring of 2010, but in June contractors discovered that the soil under the site was contaminated by petroleum. Exterior restoration was completed in October, with the building still on its dolly. It was decided to locate the lighthouse on pilings in the harbor, and this move took place on 1 May 2012. Hilari Seery's photo at right shows the result of this restoration, and a time-lapse video is available. Meanwhile preservationists are seeking $700,000 needed to restore the interior. Located on the waterfront at the foot of Broad Street in Edenton. Site open, tower closed. Owner/site manager: Edenton Historical Commission. ARLHS USA-694.
Roanoke River Light
1887 Roanoke River Light, Edenton, May 2012
contributed photo copyright Hilari Seery; used by permission

Washington County Lighthouse
*** Roanoke River (1) (replica)
2003 (replica of 1866 lighthouse). Active (an unofficial light is displayed). 1-1/2 story wood keeper's house with lantern centered on the roof, mounted on steel pilings reproducing the original foundation. Lighthouse painted white with red trim; lantern painted black. The original, destroyed by ice in 1885, was located near the western end of Albemarle Sound off the mouth of the Roanoke River, about 6 miles (10 km) northeast of Plymouth. Susan Sharpless Smith's photo is at the bottom of this page, Anderson has an excellent page for the lighthouse, Wilmoth has a good account and photos from a March 2004 visit, Wikimedia has a photo by Julie Kertesz, and Google has a satellite view. We also have photos from May 2003, a month before the lighthouse was completed. Located on the Roanoke River waterfront off US 64 in downtown Plymouth. Parking available. Site open, tower open 11 AM through 3 PM Tuesday through Saturday and for group tours by appointment (small admission fee). Owner: Town of Plymouth. Site manager: Roanoke River Lighthouse and Maritime Museum.

Outer Banks Lighthouses

Currituck County Lighthouse
**** Currituck Beach (Corolla)
1875 (Dexter Stetson). Active; focal plane 158 ft (48 m); white flash every 20 s. 162 ft (49 m) unpainted round red brick tower with lantern and gallery, attached to a 1-story brick oil house; the original 1st order Fresnel lens is still in use. Sibling of Bodie Island Light (see below). Original 2-1/2 story wood principal keeper's quarters. The visitor center is in the assistant keeper's quarters, a house apparently moved to the light station in the 1920s. An original storage building is used for staff offices. A photo is at right, Anderson has a fine page for the lighthouse, Wikipedia's page has a good photo, Wikimedia has additional photos, Trabas has a fine photo by Michael Boucher, and Google has a satellite view. This historic light station was badly deteriorated in 1980, when the Outer Banks Conservationists (OBC) signed a lease to restore the buildings. Three decades of work have restored the station to its original appearance. The lighthouse lantern and gallery were restored in winter 1999-2000. In August 2001 the Coast Guard announced plans to transfer the light station under NHLPA, and a controversy quickly arose when Currituck County sought ownership in opposition to OBC. In early 2003, the National Park Service awarded the lighthouse to OBC, and the Secretary of the Interior confirmed the award in July. Despite the fierce opposition of local Congressman Walter Jones, the deed was finally transferred on October 17. This bitter struggle reached ridiculous heights, with the County Commission suing OBC for violation of local zoning ordinances. The dispute threatened to upset the entire NHLPA lighthouse transfer process. Finally, three of the five commissioners reached an agreement with OBC in April 2006 to accept OBC ownership and cease all litigation. Fortunately, the lighthouse is now much better integrated with the community as a unit of the Currituck Heritage Park; the park also includes the Whalehead Club Historic House Museum and the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education, both within walking distance of the lighthouse. Located on the west side of NC 12 in Corolla. Site and tower open daily from one week before Easter through Thanksgiving weekend (site free; there's a fee to climb the tower). Owner/site manager: Outer Banks Conservationists. ARLHS USA-212; Admiralty J2384; USCG 2-0555.
Currituck Beach Light
Currituck Beach Light, Corolla, June 2005
Flickr Creative Commons photo by jen-the-librarian

Dare County Lighthouses
**** Roanoke Marshes (3) (replica)
2004 (replica of 1877 lighthouse). Active (privately maintained and unofficial). 1-1/2 story wood keeper's house with lantern and gallery centered on the roof, mounted on a concrete pier. Lighthouse painted white with red trim; lantern painted black. The lantern houses a 4th order Fresnel lens on loan from the Coast Guard. A photo is at right, Anderson has an excellent page for the lighthouse, the town also has a page for the lighthouse, and Google has a satellite view. This lighthouse is similar to the 1866 Roanoke River Light in Plymouth (see above). The Coast Guard has a photo of the original lighthouse, which was located in Croatan Sound southwest of Roanoke Island. When it was deactivated in 1955, an attempt was made to move the lighthouse on shore, but it collapsed into the sound during the operation. In 1995, the town of Manteo decided to build a replica of the lighthouse on an unused concrete pier in Shallowbag Bay just off the town's waterfront. Manteo, the seat of Dare County, is on the east side of Roanoke Island. The original intention was for the lighthouse to be a centerpiece of the town's centennial celebration in 1999. After long delays to raise funds and obtain necessary permits, construction finally began in 2003 and was completed in September 2004. The building houses a small lighthouse museum. A small maritime museum and a fully-restored coastal warning display tower are located onshore near the lighthouse. Located off NC 400, the tourist route winding through historic Manteo. Accessible by walking the short pier. Site open, lighthouse open daily (free). Owner: Town of Manteo. Site manager: Roanoke Island Maritime Museum. ARLHS USA-1032.
Roanoke Marshes Light
Roanoke Marshes Light, Manteo, July 2007
Flickr Creative Commons photo by PLCjr
* Bodie Island (3)
1872 (station established 1848) (Dexter Stetson). Active (maintained by the National Park Service); focal plane 156 ft (47.5 m); two white flashes (separated by 2.5 s) every 30 s. 160 ft (49 m) round brick tower with lantern and gallery, attached to a 1-story brick oil house. Original 1st order Fresnel lens. Tower painted with horizontal black and white bands; lantern black. The original 2-story brick duplex keeper's quarters is a ranger office and visitor center with a small museum and gift shop. Two 1-story wood outbuildings are modern additions. A photo appears at the top of this page, Anderson has a great page with wonderful photos, Jim Liestman has a good 2009 photo, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore also has a web site for the lighthouse, Wikimedia has numerous photos, Trabas has Michael Boucher's photo, and Google has a satellite view. Note: the name of the island and lighthouse is pronounced "Body." This is a classic lighthouse with authentic surroundings, little changed in more than a century. There were some repairs to the tower in 1997-98, but extensive renovation was deferred. Ownership of the tower was transferred to the National Park Service in July 2000, and the lighthouse was added to the Lighthouse Digest Doomsday List in September 2000. The Park Service received a $200,000 appropriation for emrgency repairs in 2000-01. Matching federal and state grants of $200,000 each in 2001 advanced planning of a full restoration. In spring 2002, work began with removal of lead-based paint from the oil house and tower base. In March 2003 the Coast Guard announced plans to replace the Fresnel lens with a modern plastic lens; preservationists and the park service sharply protested this decision and in the summer of 2004 the Coast Guard agreed to transfer the lens and the responsibility for its restoration and operation to the Park Service. The tower was repainted in April 2004. In August 2004, two large chunks of iron fell from the gallery, and a fence was built around the building to protect visitors. Ownership of the 1st order Fresnel lens was transferred to the park service on 25 April 2005. Additional emergency repairs were made in 2007. Plans called for restoration to begin in 2008, but in December 2007 the U.S. Senate dropped the necessary funding from the fiscal 2008 budget. Finally, Congress appropriated $3 million for the restoration in March 2009. Work began in September 2009 and continued through March 2011. The lighthouse was restored inside and out; the lens was disassembled, restored, and placed in storage. When restoration was complete, the tower was to be opened for guided tours. In January 2011, however, the Park Service announced that the gallery would need additional work, for which $1.6 million in additional funding was needed, before the tower could be opened for climbing. With the help of North Carolina's two senators, the additional funding was secured. Work resumed in March and was completed by spring 2013. The light was restored on 19 April 2013. Located on the west side of NC 12 between Nags Head and Oregon Inlet. Site and visitor center open all year (free); tower open for tours daily mid April through mid October (fee, tickets required). Owner: U.S. National Park Service. Site manager: Cape Hatteras National Seashore. ARLHS USA-067; Admiralty J2386; USCG 2-0590.
* [North River]
1866. Inactive since 1917. Originally, this was a rectangular cottage screwpile lighthouse, located in the North River (an arm of Albemarle Sound) near Coinjock. On 31 December 1917, shifting ice broke all the legs of of the platform. In 1920 the abandoned structure was sold to Dare County. The light tower was removed and the building was moved to Rodanthe on Hatteras Island, where it was used as a school until 1951. The building was then renovated as the Rodanthe-Waves-Salvo Community Center. The origin of the building was forgotten until it was rediscovered in 2006 by several citizens researching the history of North River Light at the Outer Banks History Center in Manteo. The building was expanded several times while it served as a school, and it no longer resembles the original lighthouse very much. Google has a satellite view. Located directly across NC 12 from the Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station, a popular tourist destination in Rodanthe. Site open, building open for scheduled activities. ARLHS USA-1171.

Bodie Island Light, 2010
Nat. Park Service photo
**** Cape Hatteras (2)
1870 (station established 1803) (Dexter Stetson). Reactivated (inactive 1936-1950) (maintained by the National Park Service); focal plane 192 ft (58.5 m); white flash every 7.5 s. 200 ft (61 m) round brick tower with lantern and gallery, mounted on an octagonal brick base; rotating DCB-224 aerobeacon (1950). The tower is painted with a distinctive black and white spiral pattern; the octagonal base is unpainted red brick; the lantern is painted black. 2-story wood principal keeper's house (1871) and 2-story wood duplex assistant keeper's house (1854). The original 1st order Fresnel lens was mostly dismantled by souvenir hunters while the lighthouse was inactive; most of the remaining portions of the lens are on display at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras. In 2006 the original pedestal was removed from from the lighthouse and reunited with the lens. Kevin Duffus has proved that this lens is the one installed in the older tower in 1854. Duffus summarized his research in two Lighthouse Digest articles in October and November 2002. Brick oil house also preserved. A photo is at right, Anderson has a great page for the lighthouse, the National Park Service also has a web page, Wikimedia has many photos, Trabas has a 2012 photo, Marinas.com has aerial photos, and Google has an excellent satellite view. This lighthouse replaced a 95 ft (29 m) octagonal brick tower, the tallest of the early federal towers, which had been extended to 150 ft (48 m) in 1854. This is the tallest U.S. lighthouse and one of the tallest brick lighthouses in the world. It is one of the most famous of all lighthouses and is probably the best-known building in North Carolina. The lighthouse has been recognized as a National Historic Landmark. In 1999 a $12 million relocation and restoration project moved the entire light station 2900 ft (885 m) southwest to escape beach erosion. We have closeup photos of this amazing move. Huelse has a historic postcard view of the lighthouse at its original location, and Wikipedia has an aerial view. In June 2001, a small segment of the spiral stairway fell, causing the park service to close the light tower for repairs. After $545,000 in repairs and renovations the tower reopened on 18 April 2003. In June 2003 a new visitor center opened; this will allow interior restoration of the keeper's houses formerly used for this purpose. A celebration of the 200th anniversary of the light station was held in October 2003, even though Hurricane Isabel had blown out several windows and heavily damaged other areas of Hatteras Island in September. In 2011, Hurricane Irene damaged the roofs of the keepers' houses; the roofs were replaced in March 2012. In 2014, fifteen years after the lighthouse was moved, the sea was threatening its original location. Located south of NC 12 in the town of Buxton. Site open all year, visitor center open daily (free), tower open daily Easter through Columbus Day (fee, tickets required). Owner: U.S. National Park Service. Site manager: Cape Hatteras National Seashore. ARLHS USA-119; Admiralty J2396; USCG 2-0625.
Cape Hatteras Light
Cape Hatteras Light, Buxton, April 2008
Flickr Creative Commons photo by C. Hanchey
Diamond Shoals
1967. Inactive since 2001. Texas platform with a square cylindrical light tower, with lantern and gallery, at one corner. The Coast Guard has a historic photo. The automated light failed in December 2001, and the structure has become too shaky for it to be repaired safely. The Coast Guard replaced the light with a buoy, and NOAA relocated its C-MAN automatic weather station from the platform to a buoy. In October 2012, the abandoned station was sold for $20,000 to Dave Schneider of Richfield, Minnesota. The president of a government supplies and logistics contractor, Schneider intends to repair the lighthouse and use it as a platform for engineering research. Located 12 miles (19 km) southeast of Cape Hatteras at the end of the infamous Diamond Shoals, a.k.a. the Graveyard of the Atlantic. Accessible only by boat. Owner/site manager: U.S. Coast Guard. ARLHS USA-230; Admiralty J2400; USCG 2-0640.
[Oliver Reef (3)]
Date unknown (station established 1874). Active; focal plane 40 ft (12 m); white flash every 6 s. 40 ft (12 m) post, standing next to the pilings of the original lighthouse. Trabas has a photo, and Google has a satellite view. The original square cottage lighthouse was removed in the 1950s and replaced by a light on the original platform. The platform has now been removed as well, leaving only the pilings. Located in Pamlico Sound about 6 mi (10 km) north of Hatteras Inlet. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS USA-1031; Admiralty J2404; USCG 2-32340.
* Hatteras Inlet
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 48 ft (14.5 m); white light, 3 s on, 3 s off. 45 ft (13.5 m) square skeletal tower built on or over a concrete equipment shelter. Trabas has a photo, and Google has a satellite view. Located near the southwest end of Hatteras Island, about 1.1 mi (1.8 km) east of the inlet and 5 km (3 mi) west of Hatteras village. Accessible by an unpaved road (4WD recommended). Site open, tower closed. Admiralty J2401; USCG 2-0645.

Hyde County Lighthouse
* Ocracoke
1823 (Noah Porter). Active (maintained by the National Park Service); focal plane 75 ft (23 m); continuous white light. 65 ft (20 m) round tower with lantern and gallery, built of brick with cement veneer; 4th order Fresnel lens (1899). Lighthouse painted white, lantern black. The 2-story brick keeper's house, formerly used a residence for park rangers, is now occupied by volunteer caretakers. This is one of the best built and best preserved examples of an old-style brick lighthouse. The oil house and two storage buildings are also preserved. Shanyne Hiles's photo is at right, Cape Hatteras National Seashore has a good page for the light station, Anderson has a fine page with excellent photos, Trabas has a good photo by Michael Boucher, Marinas.com has aerial photos, and Google has a satellite view. Part of the keeper's house is original, but the building was expanded with a second story in 1897 and a duplex section in 1929. In 2002 the park service moved a fence to provide more parking at the site. In the fall and winter of 2009-10 the lighthouse was closed four months for replacement of the glass in the lantern, repairs to metalwork, and installation of lightning protection. Located on Lighthouse Road just off NC 12 in the town of Ocracoke. Ocracoke Island is accessible by state ferries from Hatteras (free), Swanquarter (toll), or Cedar Island (toll). Site open (free); limited parking provided; tower closed to climbing but the base is open during the summer season whenever volunteers are available to staff it. Owner: U.S. National Park Service. Site manager: Cape Hatteras National Seashore. ARLHS USA-561; Admiralty J2408; USCG 2-0660.
Ocracoke Light
Ocracoke Light, Ocracoke, September 2008
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Shayne Hiles

Cartaret County Lighthouse
** Cape Lookout (2)
1859 (station established 1812) (W.H.C. Whiting). Active (maintained by the National Park Service); focal plane 150 ft (46 m); white flash every 15 s. 163 ft (49.5 m) round brick tower with lantern and gallery; aerobeacon. The tower is painted in a black-and-white diamond pattern unique in the U.S. The original 1st order Fresnel lens (1856, transferred from the earlier tower) was removed in 1972 and transferred in 1994 to Block Island Southeast Light, Rhode Island. The 2-story brick assistant keeper's house (1873) includes lodging for volunteer caretakers in season; in 2006 the lower story was renovated as a museum. The principal keeper's house (1907), seen in Scotti James's photo, was relocated south closer to the point of the Cape and leased as a summer residence; that lease has now expired and the house may be returned to its original location. There have been efforts to secure the return of the Fresnel lens, but that seems unlikely. The brick oil house and other buildings are also preserved, but in September 2003 Hurricane Isabel swept away the station's coal shed. A photo is at right, Anderson has an excellent page for the lighthouse, Trabas has a postcard photo, Marinas.com has aerial photos, Huelse has a historic postcard view, and Google has a good satellite view. The lighthouse is somewhat endangered by beach erosion from the west (Barden's Inlet) side of the cape; in the spring of 2006 sand was pumped into the area to protect the keeper's house from the erosion. A Coast Guard project in 1999-2000 provided much-needed interior renovation of the tower. The lighthouse was transferred to the National Park Service in 2003, paving the way to a more complete restoration. Volunteers from the Friends of Cape Lookout helped NPS paint the lighthouse in fall 2004. A new visitor center opened in the spring of 2006. In the fall, the DCB-24 aerobeacon (1972) was replaced by a more modern aerobeacon after the rotating mechanism of the older lamps failed. In February 2008, engineers found significant deterioration of the iron stairway, and the tower was closed to climbing. Engineering studies were made during the summer of 2008 to plan repairs, and in October 2009 the federal government granted $500,000 to carry them out. The tower reopened in ceremonies on 7 July 2010. Located on the South Core Banks, an uninhabited barrier island. The lighthouse is accessible by passenger ferries (toll) from the national seashore's visitor center at Harker's Island year round (limited service December through February) and from a waterfront visitor center in Beaufort, mid April through October. Site open all year, visitor center open daily April through October, tower open for climbing Wednesday through Saturday, mid-May through mid-September. Owner: U.S. National Park Service. Site manager: Cape Lookout National Seashore. ARLHS USA-126; Admiralty J2430; USCG 2-0670.

Cape Lookout Light, Core Banks, January 2004
Flickr Creative Commons photo by greenkayak73

Cape Fear Lighthouses

Brunswick County Lighthouses
[Cape Fear (Captain Charlie's Station)]
1903. Inactive since 1958, when the light tower, a 150 ft (46 m) pyramidal skeletal lighthouse, was demolished. The concrete foundation pad of the lighthouse remains. Three 1-1/2 story wood keeper's houses have been fully restored and are available for vacation rental. WHQR public radio has a photo of the three houses, Greg Stull has a closeup of one of them, and Google has a satellite view of the station. This former light station is nicknamed for its long-time keeper Charlie Swan. The foundation of the lighthouse is located near the headquarters of the Bald Head Island Conservancy, and the light station's brick generator building is the Conservancy's visitor information center. The Old Baldy Foundation is retrieving as much as possible of the original 1st order lens for display at Old Baldy (next entry). Located at the point of Cape Fear on Bald Head Island. The island is accessible by passenger ferry (toll; reservations advised) from Southport. Site open. Owner/site manager: Bald Head Island Conservancy. ARLHS USA-1028.
** Bald Head Island (Old Baldy) (2)
1818 (station established 1794) (Daniel Way). Inactive 1861-1879 and since 1930 (a weak decorative light has been displayed since 1988). 100 ft (30.5 m) octagonal round brick tower with mottled stucco veneer, lantern and gallery. The original keeper's houses have been destroyed, but a replica of the 1850s principal keeper's house was built in 2000 and serves as a historical museum for the island. Oil house preserved. Tim Engleman's photo is at right, Anderson has a good page for the lighthouse, Jim Dollar has a good photo, Marinas.com has aerial photos, and Google has a satellite view. This is the oldest brick lighthouse in the U.S. and the last built of the early federal octagonals. It was restored by a local foundation beginning in 1985. Lighthouse Digest has an article on the earlier (1794) tower. In 2005, an engineering study by International Chimney Corp. recommended that the mottled and damaged stucco should be removed and replaced with new material; most likely this would return the lighthouse to its historical appearance, painted white. About $1 million must be raised before restoration can begin. Located near the ferry landing on Bald Head Island, a private residential development at Cape Fear. Accessible by passenger ferry (toll; reservations advised) from Southport; tours are available that include this site as well as Captain Charlie's Station. Site open (free); museum and tower open daily March through October, except closed Mondays in spring and fall (fee). Owner/site manager: Old Baldy Foundation. ARLHS USA-032.
Bald Head Shoal Channel Range Rear
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 70 ft (21 m); white light, 3 s on, 3 s off, visible only on the range line. 73 ft (22 m) square cylindrical skeletal tower with gallery, mounted on a concrete platform. Trabas has a photo by Capt. Theo Hinrichs, and Google has a good satellite view. This modern light serves the function for which Old Baldy was built, to guide ships past the Bald Head shoal. The front light is on a short tower 1.33 miles (2150 m) southwest. Located about one mile north of Old Baldy just off the mouth of Bald Head Creek; visible from the lighthouse and (distantly) from the Southport waterfront. Site open, tower closed. Owner/site manager: U.S. Coast Guard. ARLHS USA-1225; Admiralty J2472.1; USCG 2-30335.
Sunny Point Terminal Entrance Range Front
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 90 ft (27.5 m); green flash every 2.5 s, visible only on the range line. Approx. 82 ft (25 m) triangular cylindrical skeletal tower. Trabas has a photo by Capt. Theo Hinrichs, and Google has a satellite view. Operated by the U.S. Army, the Sunny Point Terminal is a major port for shipment of supplies (including munitions) to U.S. forces overseas. Located on the waterfront of the terminal, on the Cape Fear River about 8 mi (13 km) north of Southport. Site and tower closed. Owner: U.S. Coast Guard. Site manager: Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point. Admiralty J2495.17; USCG 2-30562.
Bald Head Island Light
Bald Head Island Light, Bald Head Island, May 2012
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Tim Engleman
Sunny Point Terminal Entrance Range Rear
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 110 ft (33.5 m); green light, 3 s on, 3 s off, visible only on the range line. Approx. 95 ft (29 m) triangular cylindrical skeletal tower. Trabas has a photo by Capt. Theo Hinrichs, and Google has a satellite view. Located 417 yd (381 m) north northwest of the front light. Site and tower closed. Owner: U.S. Coast Guard. Site manager: Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point. Admiralty J2495.171; USCG 2-30563.
Price's Creek Range Front
1849. Inactive since 1861. 20 ft (6 m) old-style round brick tower with no lantern. A photo by Heather Knitz is at right, a June 1996 Lighthouse Digest story profiles the light, Anderson has a good page for the lighthouse, Don Kennedy has a 2009 photo, Wilmoth has a report with photos from an OBLHS visit in spring 2005, the Southport Times has posted a rare 1939 postcard view, and Google has a satellite view. Long forgotten, this little lighthouse was rediscovered by lighthouse fans during the 1980s. It is on the Lighthouse Digest Doomsday List. The OBLHS visit discovered that the owners, probably concerned about liability issues, have replaced the original stairs in the lighthouse and repaired some of the crumbling brickwork. In April 2001, the Southport Board of Aldermen appointed a committee to consider preservation of the lighthouse and possibly relocating it to Southport, but nothing came of this effort. The Southport Times has also acquired a 1908 postcard view of the former rear light, which was mounted on the keeper's house. This structure is no longer standing, but its ruins may be visible. Located on the west side of the Cape Fear River a short distance north of the Southport-Fort Fisher Ferry terminal. The lighthouse is on private property and is not accessible without special permission. Visible from the Southport-Fort Fisher ferry (toll). Site open, tower closed. Owner/site manager: Archer Daniels Midland, Inc. ARLHS USA-672.
* Cape Fear River Entrance Range Rear
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 101 ft (31 m); white light, 3 s on, 3 s off, visible only on the range line. 101 ft (31 m) triangular skeletal tower mounted on a large square platform supported by a robust steel post. Post and platform painted yellow. Trabas has a photo by Capt. Theo Hinrichs, and Google has a satellite view. Located just off the beach on the west side of the entrance to the estuary. The adjoining land is the North Carolina Baptist Assembly's Fort Caswell Retreat and Conference Center. Site open to conference center visitors (ask at the gate about access); tower closed. Admiralty J2472.91; USCG 2-30310.
Price's Creek Range Front Light
Price's Creek Range Front Light, Southport, July 2011
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Heather Knitz
** Oak Island
1958. Active; focal plane 169 ft (51.5 m); four white flashes every 10 s. 155 ft (47 m) round cylindrical reinforced concrete tower with lantern and gallery; rotating aerobeacon. The upper third of the tower is black, the center third white, and lowest third gray; these colors are in the concrete, not painted. Leo Suarez's photo is at right, Anderson has a good page with photos and historical information, Trabas has a closeup photo by Michael Boucher, Marinas.com has aerial photos, and Google has a satellite view. This is the next-to-last lighthouse built by the Coast Guard and the second tallest concrete light tower in the U.S. Built at an active Coast Guard station, the lighthouse was unharmed when the main station building next door was destroyed by fire in February 2002. In 2003 the Coast Guard announced it would transfer ownership of the lighthouse to the town of Caswell Beach; the transfer ceremony was held on 20 October 2004. The Friends of Oak Island Lighthouse was formed to manage and support the lighthouse. Located on Caswell Beach Road (extension of NC 133), marking the west side of the entrance to the Cape Fear River. Site open, tower open to the second floor level 10 AM to 2 PM Wednesdays and Saturdays from Memorial Day (late May) to Labor Day (early September); tours to the top of the tower are available by advance reservation (it's a challenging and vertiginous climb: the tower has ladders, not stairs). Owner/site manager: Town of Caswell Beach. ARLHS USA-558; Admiralty J2470; USCG 2-0810.
Frying Pan Shoals
1966. Inactive since 2003. Texas-style platform with a square cylindrical light tower, with lantern and gallery, at one corner. A photo is available, and the Coast Guard has a historic photo showing the tower on the day of its inauguration, with the departing lightship Frying Pan. (The ship, WLV-115, is now moored at New York.) The light tower was replaced in November 2003 by a large floating buoy that includes a NOAA C-MAN automatic weather station. In 2009, the structure was offered at auction by the General Services Administration, and the high bid of $515,000 was submitted by Shipwrecks, Inc., a South Carolina firm specializing in underwater archaeology. However, the firm failed to carry through to closing. Placed back on the market, the platform was sold for $85,000 to Richard Neal, a real estate developer from Charlotte, North Carolina. Neal is restoring the structure, and it is now open for overnight accommodations. Located 32.5 miles (52 km) southeast of Cape Fear at the end of Frying Pan Shoals. Accessible only by boat. Owner/site manager: private. ARLHS USA-313; ex-Admiralty J2466; USCG 2-0820.
Oak Island Light
Oak Island Light, Caswell Beach, September 2010
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Leo Suarez

Information available on lost lighthouses:

Roanoke River Light
Roanoke River Light, Plymouth, May 2008
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Susan Sharpless Smith

Adjoining pages: North: Virginia | South: South Carolina

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Posted in September 1999, this is the original Lighthouse Directory page. Checked and revised June 6, 2013. Lighthouses: 18. Site copyright 2013 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.