Oak Island - A Beacon
Into Itís Past,
A Light On Itís Present
Oak Island, located in
Brunswick County, North Carolina is a thriving community and resort
area that lures tourists from all over the world. Year after year
people in search of sun and fun come to this lovely town, known for
its peace and quiet, to sail, surf, bird watch and canoe. Visitors
can choose from two piers to fish from as well as go boating on
charters that regularly tour from the islandís
Blue Water Point Marina. On
this idyllic island sailing and surfing are regular activities, not
only for the tourists but residents as well. Although Oak Island
boasts an annual summer population of thirty to forty thousand, it
also has a steady population of approximately eight thousand, making
it not only a popular resort, but a thriving residential community.
Rich in history, throughout the years Oak Island has weathered
and is home to historic landmarks including Fort Caswell, which was
completed in 1838, and the Oak Island Lighthouse which was completed
Although building did not
officially begin on Oak Island until the 1930s, its early beginnings
can be traced back to the construction of Fort Caswell (named in
1833 for Richard Caswell, the first Governor of North Carolina) on
what is now know as Caswell Beach. Construction of this landmark
fort began in 1827 and finished in1838. One of only three masonry
forts in the state of North Carolina before the Civil War, in 1861
Fort Caswell was Captured by the Confederates. Its partial
destruction in a mine explosion during the Civil War and its remote
and inaccessible location (it could only be reached by water)
resulted in its abandonment. It would remain this way, deserted and
in ruins, until 1896 when the United States finally allotted money
towards its reconstruction.
By 1916 Fort Caswell had
experienced a renaissance of sorts, and was once again a major
military post on the East Coast. It became the headquarters of the
Cape Fear Coastal Defenses and was manned by three companies of
Coast Artillery Corp. under the command of Colonel Charles A. Bennet.
On January 31, 1946, Fort Caswell was designated as war surplus and
tagged for deconstruction, but once again it was rescued and
experienced a rebirth. In 1949 The Baptist State Convention of North
Carolina purchased the fort for the sum of eighty six thousand
dollars and they remain the owners to this day. Today, Fort Caswell,
once a silent witness to so much violence and bloodshed, has become
a haven and retreat for those in search of relaxation and quiet
Long Beach Pier was built in the mid-1950s and
officially closed for business on January 6th of 2006.
The pier was demolished to make way for new oceanfront
homes in the fall of 2006.
Although its beginnings can be
traced back to the 1800s, construction on Oak Island officially
began in 1938 when an ambitious timber exporter from Charleston
South Carolina by the name of Ernest Middleton bought land on Oak
Island in conjunction with his partners in Carolina Lands, Inc. and
began development of Long Beach, an area of land on Oak Island. By
1939 Middleton and his partners had opened a pavilion, a canteen
with a dining room and 20 bath houses. Oak Island was no longer
merely a location, it had become a destination. Visitors to the
Island could attend Saturday dances held at the pavilion, enjoy live
orchestras and buy ocean front lots for three hundred fifty dollars.
Unfortunately, World War II and the resultant shortages and
restrictions brought this beginning boom to a temporary halt.
Undaunted, Oak Island
persevered and continued building after the war until tragedy struck
in the form of
In 1954 Hurricane Hazel cut a swath of destruction that all but
destroyed Oak Island. In the aftermath only five houses were left
standing and all residents were left homeless. But once again Oak
Island rallied. Middleton continued building, and in 1955 the island
incorporated the neighboring towns of Long Beach and Yaupon.
In 1958, the Oak Island
Lighthouse was built in conjunction with the Oak Island Lifesaving
Station, replacing the Cape Fear Lighthouse which was located across
the Cape Fear River on Bald Head Island. The Oak Island Lighthouse
(now the most famous lighthouse in the world) stands 158 feet tall,
with a tower designed to sway about three inches in a 100 mile per
hour wind (not three feet as legend has it) and unlike most old
lighthouses it has a series of ships ladders instead of a spiral
staircase, with a total of 134 steps to the lantern gallery level.
Tools are hauled to the top by way of a long pulley.
Due to its ingenious
construction Oak Island Lighthouse never needs painting. The first
forty feet of the tower are constructed of natural gray cement, the
next fifty feet are white Portland cement mixed with white quartz
aggregate, and the final fifty feet are black paint mixed with the
cement, resulting in a low maintenance, extremely durable
construction that has stood fast for almost fifty years. Today the
still operational lighthouse is a historic landmark. With a beam
that casts a signal visible for 19 miles, Oak Island Lighthouse has
kept up with the times and is the proud owner of the newest and most
powerful beam among all American lighthouses. Only a French light on
the English Channel is more powerful than the one used by Oak Island
Lighthouse. Because its beam generates a phenomenally intense,
blinding heat, repairmen must wear protective clothing and even then
they can work for only short periods.
hurricanes, civil war and world war, Oak Island has continued to
grow and prosper. Like its titular oaks it has stood fast and
endured. Like Fort Caswell it has been destroyed and rebuilt,
growing and improving with each rebirth. Like its Lighthouse its
foundation is rock solid and it has adapted and adjusted to meet the
demands of the present. A thriving community, a destination hot spot
for vacationing travelers, a living piece of history - thatís Oak
Island; the true jewel of the Carolinas.
2007. All Rights Reserved.
Southport, NC Hotel