Visible for 15 nautical miles because of its DCB-24 aero-beacons, and distinguishable by its traditional checkered day-mark of black-and-white diamonds, the North Carolina Cape Lookout Lighthouse is one of four lighthouses built on the eastern shores of North Carolina. Unlike other lighthouses, it functions during daylight hours.
It is not, however, the first Cape Lookout Lighthouse. The original lighthouse, was built in 1812, but it had been plagued by foundation issues and lighting issues that made it impossible for sea captains to see the tower. Subsequently, Congress approved the construction of a new lighthouse, and it was complete and lit on November 1, 1859.
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The North Carolina Cape Lookout Lighthouse is constructed of brick and features a spiral iron staircase that winds to the top. It stands at an impressive 50 meters high. The lighthouse served as a military fortress during the Civil War and suffered physical damage as a result. The lenses and directional beacons were removed by the Confederate government in an attempt to make it difficult for Union forces to steer the coast; however, the Union Army captured the lighthouse, new navigational lenses were installed, and the aforementioned damage was repaired after the war.
The North Carolina Cape Lookout Lighthouse is only accessible by ferry and features a boardwalk that directs visitors to both the lighthouse and the Assistant Quarters Museum. The Assistant Quarters, once served by two women, now operates as a museum with several exhibits and a mini theatre which shows a film by the National Park Service.
The Park Service took control of the lighthouse in 2003 and was partnered with the Friends of Cape Lookout National Seashore to assist in preserving the lighthouse and area grounds. Tower climbs are offered throughout the regular season and a view of the core banks atop the tower is nothing short of spectacular.