Oak Island Lighthouse

Sept. 24, 2019

Oak Island Lighthouse, Town of Caswell Beach, near the mouth of the Cape Fear River, Brunswick County, Southeastern North Carolina

Built in 1958.


Oak Island, NC
Location: Oak Island Coast Guard Station; between Caswell Beach and Fort Caswell
Station Established: 1958
Year Current Tower First Lit: 1958
Automated: 1958
Deactivated: no
Foundation Materials: concrete with steel pilings
Construction Materials: concrete
Tower Shape: cylindrical
Height: 148’
Markings/Pattern: gray, white and black
Relationship to Other Structure: detached
Original Lens: carbon-arc mercury lamps in 36-inch reflectors
Height of Focal Plane: 24 miles
Appropriation: $110,000

Historical Information:

  •  The height of Oak Island Light is reported to be 169 feet on nautical reports, however, the actual height of the tower itself is 148 feet. The tower stands on a slight rise, making the height of the light above the water level to be 169 feet.
  • Instead of a spiral staircase, this tower has a series of ships ladders that takes you to the lantern gallery level. There is a total of 131 steps.
  • The base is made up of 24 concrete filled steel pilings. Each steel piling is 10 ¾ inches in diameter and 67 feet deep. Pilings are capped by a 30’ wide by 3’ deep octagonal concrete base.
  • Main tower is 128’ tall and built with monolithic reinforced concrete. The inside of the tower has a uniform diameter of 16 feet 4 ¾ inches. The wall is 8” thick.
  • The tower has a three stripe color pattern. The first forty feet is natural gray of Portland cement. The next fifty feet was poured with white Portland cement and white quartz. The top fifty two feet was poured with gray Portland cement with black coloring.
  • The small concrete section at the top was formed with stationary metal forms after the top floor was poured.
  • Tower windows were constructed of stainless steel, but the sashes have since been replaced with vinyl.
  • Aluminum lantern room stands at 11 feet tall, and was installed by Marine Corps helicopters.
  • Flashing pattern for the light is four one-second flashes every 10 seconds.
  • The light in Oak Island Lighthouse is made up of 8 aero beacon lighting fixtures, 4 on top and 4 on the bottom. When the light was activated in 1958, the lower bank used carbon-arc mercury lamps in 36” reflectors. The reflectors and their housings were adapted from aircraft spotlights used in World War II. When these lamps were used, Oak Island was the second brightest light in the world. The upper banks of lights comprised of 24” theatrical lights and 1,000 watt Quartz lamps and eventually became the primary beacon. Oak Island lost this distinction once the upper bank of lights became the primary beacon.
  • The property on which Oak Island Light sits has been a U.S. Coast Guard station since the 1930’s, and was a U.S. Lifesaving Station prior to that. In 2002, a new Coast Guard station was built after the old station was destroyed by a fire. The new station closely resembles the old station, and was rebuilt over the foundation of the lost station.
  • The lighthouse and surrounding property were deeded to the Town of Caswell Beach in 2004, as well as the adjacent beachfront property. The Coast Guard has retained responsibility for the upkeep of the lights, while Caswell Beach has the responsibility for maintaining the lighthouse and the grounds. The town has created additional parking as well as providing access to the lighthouse grounds. Boardwalk access to the beach and an observation deck has been added as well.
  •  Summer 2007: Friends of Oak Island Lighthouse assembled volunteers to provide regular weekly access to the inside of the tower.
  • The town has made provisions for additional parking as well as providing access to the lighthouse grounds and a boardwalk access to the beach with an observation deck. During the summer of 2007, the Friends of Oak Island Lighthouse began assembling volunteers and providing regular weekly access to the inside of the tower.

Researched and written by Jamie Smith, a volunteer through the Chesapeake Chapter of the U.S. Lighthouse Society.