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Cape Hatteras Foundation Stones To Be Relocated

In June 2013, the Outer Banks Lighthouse Society (OBLHS) and Cape Hatteras National Seashore of the National Park Service (NPS) began discussions about the situation of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse foundation stones. When the lighthouse was relocated in 1999 it was cut from its foundation and these stones were left to mark the original lighthouse site. OBLHS paid about $12,000 to have the stones engraved with keepers’ names in 2001, so our interest in this subject continues with great energy. The stones are a memorial to the keepers of the 1803 and 1870 towers, and we want descendants and visitors to be able to see the stones and experience their symbolism. The site has become fondly known as “The Circle of Stones.”

The NPS agreed to uncover and move the stones closer to the current lighthouse position before summer and be used as an amphitheater. We are happy to report that the park is honoring its promise because the stones were recently uncovered. Now, how did this all come to be and what will the new arrangement of stones be called? Read on.

Face Stones of First Plinth Marked Original Site

The lighthouse was built on a granite foundation that was made up of five courses (plinths), the fifth being immediately under the tower and the first course rested on the pine mat about six feet below ground level. Before the lighthouse was moved, a cut was made between the first and second plinths to free the tower and enable it to be lifted and rolled to a new location.

According to Joe Jakubik, International Chimney’s project manager for the light station’s relocation during 1999-2000, there were 36 granite stones that were left at the original location of the tower near the shore. Joe stated, “When we were tasked to move the lighthouse, the criteria for moving the National Register property was that everything that was seen above grade [ground level] would be moved to the new location. Two inches of the 18 inches-high ‘Circle’ course of stones were visible. When we mined it out, we removed and salvaged the outermost portion (about 6 ft thick) of stone, whole. Later, when hurricane season was coming up quick, we thought about it and decided (and verified with the NPS) that it would be safer to quickly put more brick support under the load zones and to cut about one foot off the face of the ‘Circle’ stones. This allowed us to use the cut faces as a veneer that was set into a brick shelf. To outward and historical appearances, the stone faces look the same as they always did, but they are only about a foot thick. The ‘Circle’ stones are the cut remnants of the old plinth course on the lighthouse minus one foot thickness.”

Foundation Stones Become a Revered Site

The Circle of stones quickly became hallowed ground not only as a memorial to keepers but also as a site for weddings, baptisms, funerals, and other significant events. But tides and erosion would slowly increase while persistently threatening the site, which is the reason the lighthouse was relocated in the first place. As the stones became overwashed and tossed around several times, the NPS did try to keep them visible. However, strong storms during the past two years covered the stones to the point that they were barely visible. Confronted with a dilemma as to whether to leave the stones in place and allow the sea to take them or to relocate them, much deliberation between the NPS, OBLHS, and Hatteras Island residents has been ongoing as to how to proceed. The lightest stone of the group weighs 3,000 pounds, so they don’t move easily.

Rescuing the Stones

In 2000, after approving OBLHS’s efforts to engrave the stones and knowing that bearing keepers’ names and years of service would create an entity expected to be protected, the NPS stated they would move the stones to a location close to the lighthouse when the ocean became a threat. That time has come now. After many months of negotiation the stones will be moved next to the pavilion and placed in rows in an arc and used as an amphitheater for interpretive talks, an area where people may gather for special events. The Hatteras Island Genealogical Preservation Society (HIGPS) brought attention to the plight of the stones in December 2013 with a petition from which was sent to the NPS and to Walter B. Jones, US representative for North Carolina’s 3rd congressional district, which includes Dare County–home of the iconic Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. OBLHS wishes to thank Congressman Jones for his interest in the stones and representation in negotiations between OBLHS, NPS, and HIGPS.

The stones will be relocated in May and will be named “Keepers of the Light Amphitheater.”

Please stop by to see the new site for these foundation stones when you visit Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and pay homage to the men whose names you see engraved. OBLHS thanks its board of directors and loyal membership who have made all this possible.

This article and an update will appear in the Lighthouse News Vol. XX1 No. 2, summer 2014.

removing stone2
The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was freed from its granite foundation by a diamond cable saw that cut the foundation between the first and second plinths. Movers mined a portion of that plinth, about six feet thick that would become the “circle stones.” After a decision was made to put more brick into the reinforced, new foundation, the face of these stones was cut away, approximately one foot thick and placed on the lighthouse at its new site, which gave the tower at its new site its original appearance.
Photos by NPS (Photographer Mike Booher took tens of thousands of pictures for the NPS throughout the move, affording us with a detailed look at the historic relocation process)
plinth preengraving
These are the first plinth stones from which the “Circle of Stones” and a veneer for the lighthouse on its new foundation were created.
Photo by NPS
Thirty-six stones were placed to commemorate the original site of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in 2000. They appear here as they looked before engraving them with keepers’ names and each one’s first year of service.
A.C. Joyner and his daughter, Rebecca, took the genealogical and family information on keepers’ names and their exact spellings provided by OBLHS to design molds from which to engrave 36 granite stones from the face of the first plinth. These names represent the men who served at both 1803 and 1870 towers and will be forever remembered. OBLHS researched, designed, and funded the project with cooperation from the National Park Service and sponsorship by the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau. The stones are currently covered but will be mined and relocated by May 2014. Photo by Bruce Roberts
The stones now bear 83 keepers’ names. This is how they appeared in 2001 when they were unveiled and dedicated at the Hatteras Keepers Descendants Homecoming. During the past 14 years, the stones have been covered by overwash, which initiated efforts in 2013 to free the stones from their sandy shroud and relocate them to safety near the lighthouse. Photo by Bruce Roberts

By May 2014, the shape of the stones’ current configuration will be changed. The circle will become arcs of a circle to create a place for educational programs, personal events, and for reading the keepers’ names and each one’s first year of service at Cape Hatteras. The new shape is designed to allow ease of access as well as seating.
Image by NPS pdf