Ocracoke Lighthouse

Sept. 24, 2019

Ocracoke Lighthouse, Ocracoke Island, Hyde County, North Carolina

Built in 1823.


Station Established: 1803
Year Current Tower(s) First Lit: 1823
Operational? YES
Automated? YES 1955
Deactivated: n/a
Foundation Materials: DRESSED STONE/TIMBER
Construction Materials: BRICK W/MORTAR SURFACE
Tower Shape: CONICAL
Markings/Pattern: WHITE
Relationship to Other Structure: SEPARATE
Original Lens: FOURTH ORDER, FRESNEL 1854

Historical Information:

  • As a consequence of the invitation held out by the act of August 7, 1789, and other similar acts of Congress, various cessions of lighthouses, beacons, buoys, public piers, and lots of land for lighthouses were made from time to time by the various States, vesting the property, jurisdiction, and sometimes both, or right of occupancy in the Government of the United States. On February 7, 1795, land necessary for a lighted beacon on Shell Castle Island (later known as Beacon Island) was turned over to the United States by the State of North Carolina and in a deed from J. G. Blount and John Wallace bearing the date of November 29, 1797, for a lot on Shell Castle Island, it was stipulated "that no goods should be stored, no tavern kept, no spirits retailed, no merchandise to be carried on, and that no person should reside on, or make it a stand to pilot or lighter vessels."
  • The first lighted beacon at Ocracoke was built on Shell Castle Island in the year 1798, and was erected in connection with the lighthouse on Cape Hatteras. This was authorized on July 10, 1797. Further appropriations for this beacon were made in 1800, 1803, and 1808.
  • On May 15, 1820, Congress appropriated $14,000 "for building a lighthouse on Shell Castle Island, in the State of North Carolina, or, in lieu thereof, a light vessel to be moored in a proper place near said island if, in the opinion of the Secretary of the Treasury, the latter shall be preferred."
  • A total of $6,625 was spent in 1820 and 1821 for this purpose. "In process of time" Mr. S. Pleasonton, Fifth Auditor of the Treasury, later wrote "the channel leading in and out of Ocracoke left the lighthouse the distance of a mile, so as to render it altogether useless. The fact being made known to Congress, an appropriation was made of $20,000 for building another near the channel, and this was built in 1823, by Noah Porter, of Massachusetts, for $11,359.35."
  • This light was built on Ocracoke Island under a congressional authorization dated May 7, 1822. It was built on 2 acres of land sold to the United States for $50 on December 5, 1822, by Jacob Gaskell, jurisdiction being ceded to the United States by the North Carolina General Assembly on December 28, 1822.
  • The 1854 report of the Lighthouse Board indicated that at Ocracoke Island a fourth-order Fresnel fixed white light was substituted for the old reflecting illuminating apparatus. In 1857 the Board reported "The Ocracoke channel light vessel and the Beacon Island lighthouse, at the same place have, several times, been reported by this Board as useless and their discontinuance recommended. The erection of a small beacon light at the Ocracoke main light station, to serve as a range light, at a cost, if authorized, of not over $750, and to form a part of the present light station at Ocracoke, will fully subserve the wants of the present and prospective navigation of that inlet much better than by keeping up the Ocracoke Channel and Nine Feet Shoal light vessel, and Beacon Island lighthouse, at an annual saving of between $5,000 and $10,000." Congress appropriated the $750 for the beacon range light on Ocracoke Island on March 3, 1859, "provided that the lighthouse on Beacon Island and Ocracoke Light vessel be discontinued after the erection and exhibition of the aforesaid beacon light." In 1862 the Beacon Island light tower was still standing but the lens had been removed. Meanwhile new Franklin lamps had been substituted for valve lamps in the Ocracoke Lighthouse. In 1899 new model fourth-order lamps were supplied. 
  • The present white tower, on Ocracoke Island and built in 1823, stands 76 feet above the ground and 75 feet above water and the 8,000-candlepower, fourth-order fixed-white electric light is visible for 14 miles.