The History of The
Oak Island Lighthouse
Island Lighthouse, still standing today, was not the first
lighthouse built in the area. Other lighthouses preceded the current Oak Island Lighthouse. In 1761, a
hurricane caused an inlet on
Island. This inlet was the best route to the Wilmington port. In
1849, construction was completed on two lighthouses on Oak Island
because of this inlet. Unfortunately, these two lighthouses were
destroyed during the Civil War. In 1879, two new lighthouses were
built to replace the two that were destroyed. These two lighthouses
did fair well either. One was destroyed by fire and no one knows how
the other one was destroyed.
After the first two lighthouses were destroyed,
Congress appropriated funds for the Cape Fear Lighthouse, which
would be located on nearby
Bald Head Island. Bald Head Island
already had a lighthouse that had been built in 1817, known as “Old
Baldy”. However, Old Baldy was not tall enough and had a limited
range of its lens and therefore was not useful for warning ships
away from frying pan shoals. Construction of the Cape Fear
Lighthouse, a 150 foot, pyramidal skeletal iron tower, was completed
in 1903 and it’s light could be seen for 19 nautical miles. Once the
Cape Fear Lighthouse was completed, Old Baldy was downgraded to a
low intensity, static light. The Cape Fear Lighthouse was used until
1958 when the current Oak Island Lighthouse was built. The current
Oak Island Lighthouse was more accessible than the Cape Fear
Lighthouse. The Cape Fear Lighthouse was no longer needed and was
The Oak Island Lighthouse, which still stands today, is
located on the grounds of the Oak Island Coast Guard Station between
Caswell Beach and Fort Caswell and is run by the U.S. Coast Guard.
The Oak Island Lighthouse was one of the last lighthouses built in
the United States, and was the last lighthouse built in North
Carolina. The lights of the Oak Island Lighthouse are four thousand
watt aerobeam lights and shine over 24 nautical miles, making it the
most brilliant beacon in the United States.
The present structure of the Oak Island lighthouse is
made of reinforced concrete and stands 169 feet tall with a diameter
of 16 feet. The foundation of the lighthouse goes 70 feet down and
sits on bedrock. The structure can sway up to three feet during gale
force winds up to 100 miles per hour. Paint was mixed with the
concrete while the lighthouse was being built, so the lighthouse
never needs to be painted. There are 134 steps to the top station.
During construction, two helicopters were used to put the lamps in
The Oak Island Lighthouse is the last manually operated lighthouse
in the world. It is switched on every evening before sunset and is
switched off each morning right after sunrise. Once a week, a member
of the Coast Guard climbs the 134 steps to inspect the lights.
Although visitors are not allowed inside the
lighthouse, the Coast Guard welcomes visitors to take pictures of
the tower and allows tours of the Coast Guard Station on Tuesdays
and Saturdays from 10:00am to 2:00pm. For more information, call the
U.S. Coast Guard at 910-278-1133.
2004. All Rights Reserved.
Southport, NC Hotel