As far as famous coastal landmarks go, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in the Outer Banks is up there on the top of the list. Though a visit to the lighthouse is cool, it’s key to understand that this little tower has quite the lengthy history.
First lit in 1803, the lighthouse has long protected ships traveling along the Atlantic coast. But, because the lighthouse was too short to adequately protect mariners, an additional 60 feet was added to the tower to make it 150-feet tall in 1853, according to the National Park Services. However, the drama didn’t stop there.
In 1861, Confederate forces attempted to destroy the tower but were thwarted by the Union. The Confederate forces did, however, make off with the tower’s new Fresnel Light, the NPS shared. And, because the tower required extensive repairs after, Congress instead chose to simply build a new lighthouse instead.
This time, the NPS explained, the new lighthouse was lit in 1870 and was painted with its now-famous black and white stripes in 1873. Measuring in at just over 198 feet, it is the tallest lighthouse in the United States. But, the drama for this lighthouse just kept coming.
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In 1980, a severe storm struck the area and swept away the remains of the first lighthouse entirely. The newer lighthouse suffered severe beach erosion. Finally, in 1999, it was determined that the Cape Hatteras Light Station had to be moved in order to preserve it.
“I don’t know if I’d want to be the foreman on the move for that very first lift and push,” Chris Cabral, a supervisory park ranger for Cape Hatteras National Seashore, told Our State about the move. “I’m sure they didn’t sleep much.” But, as it turns out there was one man willing to do the job: Joe Jakubik.
As Jakubik explained to Our State, “The first step of the process on the lighthouse itself was to mine underneath the foundation.”
To do so, movers placed steel beams under the structure along with hydraulic jacks to lift the entire lighthouse off the ground. Next, the team placed roll beams underneath to guide the lighthouse along a track to its intended destination more than 1,500 feet away. And sure, that may not seem like a lot, but as Our State noted, the structure could only move five feet at a time. In total, it took 23 days to move the lighthouse to its new home.
Now, the lighthouse remains steady and strong and it’s simply waiting for more visitors to come climb its stairs and take in the historic view on top. Just maybe leave your drama at home as this lighthouse has certainly had enough.