A Working Lighthouse
On December 1, 1875 the beacon of the Currituck Beach Lighthouse filled the remaining "dark space" on the North Carolina coast between the Cape Henry Lighthouse to the north and Bodie Island Lighthouse to the south.
To distinguish the 162-foot tall tower from other regional lighthouses, its exterior was left unpainted and gives a sense of the multitude of bricks used to form the structure. Shining from a height of 158 feet above sea level, the night beacon was automated in 1939.
Like the other lighthouses on North Carolina's Outer Banks, this one still serves as an aid to navigation. The beacon comes on automatically every evening at dusk and turns off at dawn. With a 20-second flash-cycle (on for 3 seconds, off for 17), the light can be seen for 18 nautical miles. The distinctive sequence helps to warn mariners and identify their location.
Before the advent of electricity, a mechanical means was required to rotate huge lenses that made the light appear to flash. A weight suspended from a cable powered a clockwork mechanism beneath the lantern—much like the workings of a grandfather clock. The keeper cranked the weights up by hand every 2½ hours.
The Currituck Beach Lighthouse has a first-order Fresnel (freh-nel) lens, the largest of the
seven sizes. Today the light source is one 1,000-watt bulb.
The Lighthouse Keepers
In 1876, three keepers and their families moved into the Lighthouse Keepers' House, a Victorian stick-style duplex constructed from pre-cut and labeled materials that were shipped on a barge and then assembled on site. In 1920, the Little Keeper's House, was moved from the Long Point Light Station on Currituck Sound to this site. After the lighthouse was automated, the keepers were no longer needed at the Light Station.
In the 1970s, after decades of being uninhabited, the Lighthouse Keepers' House stood open to the elements and the Little Keeper's House was covered by vines and brush. Concerned about the preservation of the historic property, Outer Banks Conservationists, Inc. signed a lease with the State of North Carolina in 1980 to begin a phased restoration of the property.
· Number of steps:
· Height to focal plane of lens:
158 feet above sea level
· Height to top of roof:
· Number of bricks:
approximately one million
· Thickness of wall at base:
5 feet, 8 inches
· Thickness of wall at parapet:
34 miles south of the Cape Henry Lighthouse in Virginia, 32½ miles north-northwest of Bodie Island
Currituck Beach Lighthouse Timeline
December 1, 1875: Beacon was first illuminated.
The Victorian "stick style" keeper's house was completed; three keepers and their families shared the duplex.
The 1870's building referred to as the Little Keeper's House was moved from the Long Point Light Station near Coinjock to the site.
Light was automated under US Coast Guard control and the keeper's houses were abandoned.
Except for the lighthouse itself, the property was turned over to the NC Wildlife Resources Commission for Muskrat Research.
The Light Station was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Outer Banks Conservationists (OBC) signed a lease with the State of North Carolina, which owns the houses and much of the land, to begin a phased restoration.
OBC negotiated with the US Coast Guard to open the lighthouse to the public.
The Little Keeper's House was stabilized with the help of North Carolina's Department of Cultural Resources.
A reunion was held for descendants of Currituck Beach Lighthouse Keepers. Oral histories and historic photographs were collected.
Major restoration of the lighthouse took place.
The Currituck Beach
Lighthouse was transferred to OBC pursuant to the National Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000.