The Cape Lookout Light Station has developed a rich and colorful history ever since the Federal Government first authorized funding in 1804. A year later, a four-acre parcel was deeded to the government in order to begin construction of the much-needed Light. The land was located at the south end of beautiful Core Banks.
The first tower was interesting, to say the least.
It actually consisted of "a tower within a tower." The inner tower was constructed of brick and was round in design. The outer tower was constructed of wood consisting of local white pine and oak. The tower was 96' tall and was fitted with a Fresnal 1st-Order lens.
In 1857 Congress authorized a new, more modern and much taller light. This tower would be 156 tall and would be conical in design, made entirely of brick. Because of its coastal location the taller tower would better serve the increased shipping demands of the area.
On November 1, 1859, the new Cape Lookout went into service for the first time. The 1st-Order Lens was transferred from the old tower to the new.
After being heavily vandalized and damaged by Confederate soldiers in 1861 it wasn't until 1863 that the Lighthouse Board relighted the tower, only this time with a 3rd Order Lens (Later on the original 1st Order Lens would be repaired and placed back into the tower.)
It wasn't until 10 years later (1873) that the tower received its internationally famous black and white diamond (or "checkers" as they were known) paint scheme in order to give it its distinctive daymark pattern.
In 1950 the United States Coast Guard automated the light, which is still an active aid to navigation, today.
The Keeper's Quarters have been restored and presently serve as a small museum and gift shop.
On June 14, 2003, the Cape Lookout Lighthouse was transferred from the United States Coast Guard to the National Park Service as part of Cape Lookout National Seashore. The light remains a working aid to navigation, warning ships of the location of Cape Lookout Shoals.
Dates & Hours of operation:
The Harker's Island Visitor's Center is open year around from 8:30 A.M. until 4:30 PM
For information on becoming a volunteer you can go to http://www.nps.gov/calo/vol.htm