Cape Lookout, at the south end of the Core Banks, had long been considered
a hazard to navigation. Indeed, because of shoals that extend some 10
miles out, one early mapmaker labeled it "Promontorium tremendum,"
which means roughly "horrible headland". The first lighthouse the
government established here was described as being two towers: "the inside
one is of brick - the outside one is a wooden framed building, boarded
and shingled, and painted in red and white stripes horizontally."
The light, 96 feet high and 104 feet above sea level, was not well regarded
by navigators. As a result, the Lighthouse Board had the light tower fitted
with a first-order lens in 1856.
Three years later the board erected a 150-foot brick tower whose light was
156 feet above sea level, activated November 1, 1859. At the beginning
of the Civil War, southern troops vandalized the lens, putting it out of
operation. In 1863 the Lighthouse Board relighted the tower, using a
third-order lens. Four years later, the original first-order lens was
repaired and reinstalled in the lantern. In 1873 the light tower was
painted its distinctive black-and-white diamond pattern to make it
a better daymark. In 1950 the Coast Guard automated the light, which
is still active. The light tower, now in need of repair, is one of the
principal historic structures of the Cape Lookout National Seashore.
The tower is closed to visitors. However, the National Park Service has
restored the keeper's quarters and made it into a visitor center.
Location: Cape Lookout National Seashore.
By ferry from Hacker's Island.
Built: 1812, 1859
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