Lighthouse Society Notes: by Cheryl-Shelton Roberts
Height of tower: 162 feet, 158 feet to focal plane, Year Completed: 1875,
Signal Distance: 19 Nautical Miles, Signal Pattern: white 3 seconds on, 17
The Currituck Beach Lighthouse is the most northern of the North
Carolina lighthouses. It is located on Highway 12 in the beautiful village
of Corolla. The light station opens each year sometime in March until the
weekend following Thanksgiving. Climbing the spiral staircase and
seeing the shadow of this great tower from directly outside its lantern
room is an unforgettable experience.
Visitation at Currituck Beach Lighthouse in Corolla continues to increase. In 2004, over 100,000 visitors made a trip to see the meticulously restored lighthouse, climb the 214 steps to the top, view the double keepers' quarters, and walk around the surrounding lighthouse complex and countless others came to see exhibits and experience a sense of maritime history from the
late 1870s. Besides the unpainted brick tower, the complex boasts two
restored lighthouse keepers' dwellings and several outbuildings, all linked
by shaded brick walkways. The Museum Shop housed in one of the restored
buildings is a favorite stop for everyone.
The light was first exhibited December 1, 1875. Located halfway
between Cape Henry to the north and Bodie Island to the south, Currituck
Beach was built to fill the eighty-mile dark void along the Atlantic that
is flat and sandy with no visible landmarks. The Currituck Beach
Lighthouse was built to a 158' focal plane with a first-order Fresnel lens
that could be seen for 18 nautical miles.
The lighthouse has walls that are 5'8" thick at the base and 3' thick
at the top. One and a half million bricks were used to build the beautiful
tower. After the U.S. Lighthouse Service was absorbed into the U.S. Coast
Guard in 1939 and after the usefulness of the light (like the others along
the coast) ended with WW II, the property was abandoned and left to fall
In the mid-1950s, the General Services Administration deeded the
lighthouse keepers' house and 38 acres to the State of North Carolina,
where it fell under the jurisdiction of the North Carolina Wildlife
Commission. Congress stipulated that the entire 395' wide strip of land
running from the Currituck Sound to the Atlantic Ocean should be used for
"recreation and other public purposes." The small plat of land where the lighthouse stands has been transferred to the Outer Banks Conservationists, now permanent stewards of the light station.
Even though the keepers' house was falling into disrepair, it won
recognition for its architectural significance and was placed on the
National Registry of Historical Places. An executive order requires states
to protect National Register holdings; however, the condition of the house
worsened year by year. A group was formed in the Outer Banks
Conservationists, Inc., and in 1980 signed a 50-year lease for "residential
privileges." Restoration was begun and with the small fee paid by
visitors, the restoration project is continuing and heading towards
completion thanks to dedicated people who remain committed to restoring and
preserving the light station.
The light station has been restored by the Outer Banks Conservationists, Inc., a nonprofit organization who owns, maintains, and staffs the light station. The tower was transferred in 2003 to OBC in keeping with standards of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act 2000. It is one of the best light station restorations in America with interpretation of the light stationís history and preservation of its maritime heritage well done. For a modest fee, the visitor can climb the 214 steps and walk onto the catwalk at the gallery level for a panoramic view from sound to sea.
Ironwork restoration began November 1, 1999, when scaffolding was placed just below the huge brackets. OBC decided to complete repairs to the roof, exterior of the lantern room, lantern deck and associated ventilation system. Also, the temporary Plexiglas panels at the service rooms windows were replaced with reproductions of the original wooden windows. The $400,000 project was estimated to take eight-weeks, however delays in obtaining castings from the foundry extended the project to approximately 12 weeks.
The lighthouse and grounds are open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m Easter through Thanksgiving and Thursday evenings in the summer until 8:00 p.m. A fee is charged for all climbers ages 8 and older (cash and checks only). Children 7 and younger climb free when accompanied by an adult.