Roanoke River Light Now in Edenton’s Colonial Park
-- first published in Lighthouse News, Vol. XVIII, 2012; by Cheryl Shelton-Roberts
Built in 1886, the fully restored Roanoke River Lighthouse now stands proudly in the harbor at Edenton, NC. The lighthouse first served as a guide for ships navigating the waters of the Albemarle Sound into the Roanoke River, and then, after being decommissioned in 1941, was moved by barge across the sound to private land, where it ultimately deteriorated as a neglected residence.
The historic Roanoke River Lighthouse initially was moved from its original location at the mouth of the Roanoke River in Albemarle Sound by Emmett Wiggins in the 1950s. He loaded it on a barge, landed it at the mouth of Filbert’s Creek in Edenton, and, being the enterprising mechanical genius that he was, proceeded to build a spit of land around the parked barge. This became the small cottage-style lighthouse’s new location for half a century. Summer 2013, the demure light made yet another journey to property belonging to the Edenton Historical Commission that is now its new home and where it has undergone complete restoration.
The first of five granite plinths, the “stepped” layers that supported the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, was the cutting line below ground level that freed the tower from its original foundation. Unleashed, the tower was lifted and moved 2.900 feet southwest to its current position in 1999. What happened to that first, subterranean layer of granite?
In 1999, the moving team was contracted to move everything belonging to the light station that was above ground to the new location. It just so happened that a top portion of that first plinth poked its head out of the sand. So, that meant that the plinth had to be excavated, broken into blocks, or “stones,” and “moved.” The movers did not need the dense blocks of heavy stones in their entirety; therefore, movers received permission to cut away about a foot of the “face” of each stone. Those faces were applied to the exterior of the reinforced brick foundation at the new location. Today, if anyone were to dig below the ground’s surface under the lighthouse and look at what was once the first plinth, he would find that it appears just as it did when the foundation was laid by Dexter Stetson’s lighthouse construction crew in 1869. What happened to the rest of the stones left behind?
The lighthouse is one of the few remaining screwpile lighthouses in America. It looks just as it did during the early 1890s when it was in service more than a century ago. Long-time admirers of this historic structure will be relieved to know that it is in good hands and is cared for by the Edenton Historical Commission. After passing to the state of North Carolina, structural restoration work was completed with volunteer donations while furnishings were gathered.
Visit the light in Edenton’s Colonial Park. It is now officially open to the public seven days a week, 10 am until 4pm. A modest fee is charged by Historic Edenton State Historic Site that directly benefits the site.
© 2012 OBLHS