The present Bodie Island Lighthouse is the third to be built since funds were allocated for the first one in 1848. Because of poor construction and the ravages of Civil War, the two lights didn't fare very well.
The first light was a 54-foot tower that began to lean after only two years in service. The second, a 90-foot tower that was blown up by the Confederates, lasted only until 1861.
The present tower was built in a new location north of Oregon Inlet. The previous two towers had been placed on land located at Pea Island, which is just south of the inlet.
Construction began on the present light in 1870 and it went into service in 1872.
The present tower is 165' tall with a focal plane of 156' above sea level. It contains a beautiful Fresnel 1st Order lens that casts its beacon 19 nautical miles out into the Atlantic. There are 214 cast-iron steps from the base to the top of the tower.
Dexter Stetson, a master Lighthouse builder, built the present tower as well as the second Cape Hatteras and Currituck Lighthouses. All three are excellent examples of classic conical design with attractive Victorian detailing, throughout.
In July, 2000, the Bodie Island Light was officially transferred from the U.S. Coast Guard to the National Park Service. The lens remained an active aid to navigation and the property of the USCG.
The well-maintained frame, tandem Keeper's dwelling still exists today and is used as a museum and gift shop.
It is interesting to note that some people refer to the name as "Bodie" with a long "o"....while others refer to it as "Body." "Body" is the recommended pronunciation by the local folks. It is believe that the reason for this is because the tract of land that the light sits on was originally purchased from the Body family. Another theory is that it was named for a "body of land."
On April 25, 2005, the USCG transferred the title of the 1st Order Fresnel Lens to the National Park Service and the lens is now classified as a private aid to navigation. The tower is scheduled for restoration in 2008, and the lens will also be restored during that time. The NPS has invited the Outer Banks Lighthouse Society to assist in restoration plans including the magnificent 1st Order Fresnel Lens.
Senator Marc Basnight requested state funds to build a new walkway adjacent to and in back of the lighthouse, which was completed in summer ‘09. It will become the classic view of this light station.
Bodie Island Lighthouse Restoration Info
The lighthouse grounds and the Keeper's Dwelling housing a museum and a shop are open year around. For more information you can call (252)441-5711 or you can call the Cape Hatteras National Seashore at (252) 473-2111
This page last updated: Saturday, January 23, 2010 4:47 PM