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Currituck Beach Lighthouse

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Quick Facts

  • Built in 1875
  • It cost $178,000 to complete
  • Height: 162 feet (49.4 m)
  • There is a total of 214 steps to the top
  • Constructed with approximately one million bricks
  • Coast Survey Chart: 36° 22′ 36” N latitude, 75° 49′ 51″ W longitude
  • Light is still operational and visible for 19 mile.
  • Thickness of wall at base is 5 feet 8 inches
  • Currituck Lighthouse was the last brick lighthouse on the Outer Banks – completed in 1875

 


The history of the Currituck Beach Lighthouse

 

Located in the town of Corolla, the Currituck Beach Light was the last of four beacons placed at intervals from Cape Henry, Virginia to Cape Hatteras. It’s beacon filled the remaining “dark spot” along the coast of North Carolina. It is located thirty-four miles (54.7 km)south of the Cape Henry Lighthouse, in Virginia Beach, VA and thirty-two and a half miles (52.3 km) north-northwest of Bodie Island Lighthouse. Below is the text of a letter written to Congress emphasizing the importance of a beacon along this stretch of coast:

…the earnest attention of Congress (is) called to the importance of establishing this needful lighthouse. The distance from Body’s Island ( early spelling of Bodie Island ) to Cape Henry is eighty miles, of which there is an unlighted space of forty miles. The land along the coast in this vicinity is low and in many places without trees, so even in daytime there is a danger of vessels getting into unsafe proximity to the coast before becoming aware of it. The danger is enhanced by the fact that vessels bound around Cape Hatteras from the northern and eastern ports keep well to the westward, in order to avoid the strong current of the Gulf Stream, and for the additional reason they have a favorable current of about a mile an hour, nearly as far as Hatteras, and a smoother sea in bad weather; but in the absence of powerful sea-coast lights sufficiently near each other to give warning of approach to danger, many vessels laden with valuable lives and cargoes are in danger of being lost between these points.

The lighthouse was approved by Congress and funds were released for it in the 1860s, but construction was delayed because of the Civil War. In 1873 construction began on the Currituck Beach Lighthouse. The 162 foot tall tower is constructed of approximately one million bricks. It’s foundation extends seven feet below ground, with walls that begin at 5.5′(1.7 m) thick at the base of its tower, then tapering to 3′ (0.9 m) thick at the top. Construction took one and a half years to build, that began in 1874 and cost around $178,000 to construct, at that time. It was lit for service in December,1875.

The lighthouse was nearly identical to the other three lighthouses along North Carolina’s Outer Banks lighthouses ( Bodie Island, Cape Lookout, and Cape Hatteras ) to the point that the Lighthouse Board ordered them painted different patterns to make them easily distinguishable to mariners. The Currituck Beach Light was to remain unpainted using the natural red brick color to distinguish it from other lights along the mid Atlantic seaboard. It still stands today with its natural brick color.

Powered By SmugWPThe beacon was fueled by a mineral oil lamp with five concentric wicks, the largest of which was four inches in diameter. The light was fixed white with a red flash, which occurred every ninety seconds and had a five second duration. The light was rotated by a clockwork mechanism beneath the light which was powered by weights that had to be hand cranked every 2 1/2 hours. Today, the light has a flash pattern of three seconds on seventeen seconds off, and can be seen for almost 19 miles out to sea. The beacon is also equipped with an automated bulb changer that holds a back-up bulb. The lighthouse was automated in 1939 when the United States Coast Guard assumed the duties of the Bureau of Lighthouses. The night beacon still flashes at 20-second intervals to warn ships along the barrier islands of the North Carolina coast. It comes on every evening at dusk and turns off every morning at dawn.

There are two Victorian style light keepers houses at the lighthouse site. The larger was home to three light keepers at a time. The smaller, of the two, was moved by barge to the site around 1920. This allowed one of the keepers to move into it. It is currently used as the museum shop, which is open seasonally. The larger residence is currently under restoration.

Powered By SmugWPIn 2003 the tower was granted to the Outer Banks Conservationists. They have restored the light station, continue with restorations and maintain its grounds. The restoration of the Currituck Beach Light Station has been considered on of the best lighthouse restorations in America.

Whalehead Club neighbors and is within sight of the Currituck Beach Lighthouse. It is a historic hunt club that was built in the 1920’s. It recently opened to the public after years of renovation. It can be seen very clearly from the top of the lighthouse. There is also a large natural area between the lighthouse and the Whalehead Club. A path over a wooden bridge will lead you from the light station to the club where you can tour the Whalehead building for $7.


Visitor Information

Powered By SmugWPThe Light station grounds are open year around. Both the lighthouse and museum shop are open from Easter to Thanksgiving each year. The Currituck Lighthouse is open for the public to climb for $7 and worth it. The view from the top is spectacular. Schools and large groups can make advance reservations at a reduced rate by contacting the Lighthouse keepers at (252) 453-4939. There is no charge to tour the grounds of the lighthouse, but there is a fee if you would like to climb the lighthouse tower, as stated above. You are also required to sign a waiver form before you climb. You can spend a good deal of time at the lighthouse just walking around and visiting the Museum Shop.

If you decide to climb, be prepared for a long journey to the top. After each flight of steps there are informative exhibits that explained some of the historical information regarding the lighthouse. While you are looking at these, you can take the opportunity to rest up before climbing the next flight of steps. When you reach the top, you will be rewarded with a spectacular view of the surrounding area. From the top, you can see both the sound and the ocean. It’s a great opportunity to capture some photos from the top of the lighthouse.

Directions:

At the intersection of Highway 158 and Route 12, take Route 12 heading north towards Duck and Corolla. The lighthouse entrance is about 20 miles on Route 12, just beyond the Whalehead Club sign.

The following link allows you to create a custom driving route to Currituck Lighthouse using Google Maps

Driving directions to Currituck lighthouse

To the north of the lighthouse on US 12, you will find that the road dead ends at a sand dune.  If you own a four-wheel drive vehicle, you can drive on the beach. If you continue north on the beach, you will be unable to drive due to a huge gate that blocks the way. Home owners that live beyond this gate have special permits that allow them to pass through.

Hours:

Open Easter through Thanksgiving, Daily 9 AM to 5 PM, and until 8pm on Thursdays during the Summer. ( They also close during lightning and high wind conditions )

Handicapped Accessibility:

The grounds of the lighthouse are negotiable by wheelchair, but the lighthouse is not. The boardwalk meets handicapped standards. Two handicapped parking spaces are plainly signed.

 


Map of Currituck Beach Lighthouse

 


Lighthouse Resources & Points of Interest

Currituck Lighthouse contact Outer Banks Conservationists P.O. Box 58 Corolla, NC 27929 (252) 453-4939  info@currituckbeachlight.com.

The Outer Banks Conservationists is a private nonprofit organization that is turning the admission fees contributed into the materials and efforts needed to restore the keepers quarters.

Dare County Tourist Bureau P.O. Box 399 Manteo, NC 27954 1 (800) 446-6262 dctb-info@outer-banks.com Dare County Tourist Bureau can provide you with all sorts of information related to the northern portion of the Outer Banks.

Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce PO Box 1757 101 Town Hall Drive Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948 (252) 441-8144 chamber@outer-banks.com