Cape Hatteras lighthouse to undergo nearly $20 million in renovations

The $19.2 million project is expected to take about 18 months to complete.
The lighthouse will be repainted, rehabilitated and updated with more modern technology.
Published: Sep. 27, 2023 at 7:24 AM EDT
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CAPE HATTERAS, N.C. (WBTV) - One of North Carolina’s most iconic structures will soon be undergoing millions of dollars in renovations.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore announced on Tuesday that a contractor has been awarded a $19.2 million contract to repair and enhance its lighthouse.

The contract was awarded by the National Park Service, and construction is expected to begin along Lighthouse Road and the Cape Hatteras Light Station within the next few months.

The lighthouse was first completed in 1870, and has since been added to the National Register of Historic Places. It has also become a National Historic Landmark. Those designations came in 1978 and 1998, respectively.

The latest project is expected to take about 18 months to complete, and will include the following improvements:

  • Rehabilitate the interior and restore the exterior of the lighthouse.
  • Repaint the interior and exterior of the lighthouse.
  • Restore important architectural components, including missing pediments over the lighthouse windows and missing interior doors.
  • Repair and repoint masonry, remove corrosion and repair metal elements.
  • Remove the metal weight track from the lighthouse.
  • Install new railing using a non-corrosive metal on the lantern balcony.
  • Remove existing rotating light beacon and metal platform from the lantern and replace with a replica of the original first-order Fresnel lens. The replica lens will be the same size and overall appearance as the original, but LED lights will be used inside the lens.
  • Rehabilitate and repair the Oil House.
  • Remove the existing vinyl perimeter fence around the lighthouse and replace with a replica of the original (pre-1920) decorative metal octagonal fence with granite bases.
  • Fabricate and install a replica stockade fence around both the Principal Keeper’s Quarters and Double Keepers’ Quarters (Museum of the Sea) to match the look and feel of the original landscape of the early historic period (1870-1890s).
  • Create a new walkway from the parking lot to improve pedestrian circulation, wayfinding, interpretation and the visitor experience.
  • Relocate the Keepers of the Light Amphitheater stones to provide interpretation of the lighthouse keeper’s role.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore said visitors should expect to see scaffolding around the lighthouse for a large part of the duration of the project. It also said opportunities to climb the lighthouse will likely not be possible until the summer of 2026.

Rendering of improved Cape Hatteras Light Station grounds.
Rendering of improved Cape Hatteras Light Station grounds.(Cape Hatteras National Seashore)

“Our work ahead represents one of the most significant efforts to repair and restore this American icon,” David Hallac, superintendent of National Parks of Eastern NC said. “We continue the important tradition of stewardship through this significant investment that will restore the lighthouse’s condition and bring back character-defining architectural features as they were in 1870.”

In addition to the lighthouse renovations, the seashore also said a new $3.2 million multi-use pathway will be installed in the area. The pathway will stretch approximately 1.25 miles from the intersection of Highway 12 and Lighthouse Road to the Cape Hatteras Light Station and Old Lighthouse Beach Access.

Educational exhibits will be placed along the pathway, which is expected to open by next summer.

Updates on the construction projects can be found here.

Related: Eastern Carolina lighthouse got messages from Titanic before sinking

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