Location: Cape Lookout, North Carolina
Year Built: 1859
Height: 163 feet
Open For Tours: Yes, from the second weekend in May to the third weekend in September
The Cape Lookout Lighthouse is the second lighthouse to be built at this location, and is identical to the Bodie and Currituck Beach Lighthouses. The distinctive paint designs and pattern the light flashes at help ships identify which lighthouse they are traveling by. Funds of $45,000 were approved for the construction by Congress in 1857, and Cape Lookout was lit and officially put into service on November 1, 1859.
On May 20, 1861, North Carolina joined the Confederacy. To prevent Union forces from being able to navigate the coastal waters, all lenses were removed from every lighthouse, including the original first-order Fresnel lens the Cape Lookout Lighthouse was originally equipped with.
In 1863, Union troops took control of the area, and by the end of the year the Cape Lookout Lighthouse was equipped with a third-order Fresnel lens. Under the Command of L.C. Harland, a small troop of Confederate soldiers crossed Union lines and attempted to destroy the lighthouse using an explosive device on April 2, 1864. While their attempt at destroying the lighthouse was unsuccessful, they were successful in putting the lighthouse out of service for a while, as the blast did damage the iron stairs and disrupted the oil supply to the lens. Due to the rationing of iron during the war, the damaged stairs were replaced using wood.
All of the captured lenses were found in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1865. The lenses were all sent back to their original manufactures to be inspected before being put back into service. In 1867, the war was over and iron ore was once again easily acquired. The wooden stairs were replaced with iron, and the restoration was completed as they installed the original first-order Fresnel lens.
As the lighthouse’s name suggests, the Cape Lookout Lighthouse is included in the Cape Lookout National Seashore. Visitors can access the lighthouse during the summer months via a private ferry.