This is an old blog that I started in 2006. I keep it because it has a lot of historical data and people still come here. As of September 2016, no new updates will be made here. All new blog posts and writing/publishing related news will be posted over on my new site at

Friday, March 05, 2010

Cape Hatteras: The Historic Lighthouse We Almost Lost

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Of all the lighthouses off the coast of North Carolina, Cape Hatteras has always fascinated me. Perhaps it's because it is the first lighthouse my parents took me to visit when I was a young girl. I remember my mom and grandmother standing over the porch rail of the museum house posing for a photo. We still have those Polaroid photos. This was back in the 1980's long before it was moved to it's current location in 1999. So it was only fitting that we took our daughter to see Cape Hatteras Lighthouse a few years ago.

The first photo is of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in it's new location. 

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is America's tallest lighthouse at 198 feet. It is currently one of two lighthouses open to the public. At one time the upper half of the original structure was painted red and the lower half was white, not the black and white swirl that the current structure has. The second photo was taken from the top of the lighthouse. The lighthouse keeper's house is below, now a museum, also moved from it's original location.

Funds for the first structure were released in 1793, but due to illness among the crew and a series of bad weather, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse wasn't completed until 1802. It wasn't lit until 1803. Not only was the light insufficient at warning ships that kept wrecking, but local residents complained about it's dreary state. Erosion began to wither away the shore.


While building a new lighthouse, an outbreak of malaria among the crew occurred and a shipwreck destroyed much of the construction materials. The new Cape Hatteras Lighthouse finally opened on December 18, 1870. But it wasn't until 1873 that the black and white barber swirl paint design was added.

By 1936 erosion had eaten away at the shore to the point that the sea was washing upon the base of the lighthouse. The coast guard decided to abandon the existing lighthouse, removing the light one mile inland. Again, in 1999 the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was being overtaken by the sea. As a National Historic Landmark, residents rallied around the idea of saving the lighthouse, and Congress approved $9.8 million to move it 2,900 to safety further inland. It reopened in the summer of 2000.

Here we are in front of the entrance to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in 2007.


That's where my mom and dad had their honeymoon. It's a beautiful place!

But isn't that pic of the Currituck Beach Lighthouse?