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Ocracoke Island Lighthouse






The history of the present Ocracoke Light House, built on its present site in 1823-24, was preceded by gifts of land for it first on Dec. 14, 1790: One acre of land on Ocracoke Island; secondly, July 17, 1794: Beacon Island in the harbor of Ocracoke; and thirdly, Feb. 7, 1795: Land necessary for a lighted beacon on Shell Castle Island. The first lighthouse at Ocracoke was on Shell Castle Island in the year 1798 when Congress was informed that this light structure had been rendered useless by the shifting of the channel to Shell Castle, it appropriated $20,000 for a second one and this second one was built at Ocracoke in 1823 by Noah Porter of Massachusetts for $11,359.35, the unused part having been turned over to the surplus fund. By 1820 two parcels of land on Ocracoke Island were owned by the U.S. Government, one the gift of William Williams, John Williams, Joseph Williams, William Howard, Jr. and Henry Gerrish (Garrish), planters of Carteret County. In 1822 a tract of land was sold to the U.S. Government for $50 by Jacob Gaskill, described as follows: "Beginning at a cedar post on the north side of the road, Jacob Gaskill's corner, thence running a due north course along his line 25 1/2 poles to a cedar post, thence a due east course twelve and three quarters poles to a cedar post, thence due south twenty-five and one-half poles to a cedar post, thence due W. to first station." In 1854 a Fresnel fixed white light was substituted for the old reflecting illuminating apparatus. In 1855 the keeper's dwelling and tower were thoroughly repaired. In the early 1900's the one-story residence was enlarged and a second residence added, each with a second story, and there was a coal shed and oil house, bringing the total cost to $29,620. This lighthouse is the oldest in continuous service, but the shortest on the North Carolina coast, being only seventy-five feet in height and seen only fourteen miles at sea off-shore.

During World War II, Ocracoke first served as a location for a Navy Section Base, 1942-44; later as an Amphibious Training Station, 1944-45, and as a Combat Information Center. After World War II electricity, paved roads, telephones, ferries, and automobiles, and especially the establishment of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Park with an Ocracoke marina, an area headquarters, and Information Center, and an Ocean Beach Campsite, brought in many more tourists so that modern motels and hotels and restaurants were established. Thus with the 20th Century came the important enterprises which tourism calls for, and today tourism is the most important of the various enterprises which benefit the people of Ocracoke Island. From a small beginning of "first" English voyages to the "New World", through the "golden years" of piracy, and pilotage, Ocracoke, and Ocracoke Inlet and Ocracoke Island have "come a long way" to the Bicentennial year of 1976.

(The history of Ocracoke Island Lighthouse taken from Hyde County History published in 1976 by the Hyde County Historical Society.

Aerial View of Ocracoke, Hyde County, North Carolina

Upper 2 photos courtesy of William Britten. Please check out his web site at Lighthouse Getaway for more beautiful photographs of lighthouses around the world.  Last photograph courtesy of Norman and Sandi Roberts.