For the past twelve years, the Outer Banks Lighthouse Society has worked toward protecting the rich history of North Carolina’s lighthouses through public awareness and education. Each year, we answer hundreds of inquiries from students, teachers and visitors wanting to know more about the lights along our rivers and coastline. Well known in the lighthouse community, we are often called upon to help in many ways, such as serving as consultants on education programs for PBS, The History Channel and The Discovery Channel. We work with the National Park Service and other agencies, government and non-profit groups, to achieve the safe keeping of the buildings, artifacts and records of the U.S. Lighthouse Establishment.
Cheryl and Bruce Roberts founded the Outer Banks Lighthouse Society in December 1994, in order to raise money for repairs at the Bodie Island Lighthouse. Once they started looking into what was needed at Bodie Island, more problems concerning the lighthouses of North Carolina came to light including severe erosion threatening Cape Hatteras Light and the discovery of the Roanoke River Lighthouse in Edenton. An eight-page newsletter was produced to gain supporters, and the first edition was left at motels and visitor centers along the Outer Banks, and at the Bodie Island Lighthouse.
One of the society’s first priorities was getting help for Cape Hatteras. It desired “…the soundest action to preserve this historic structure be taken as quickly as possible.” After years of heated debate, it was decided that in order to save the lighthouse, it had to be moved. The move started in January 1999, when the process of removing the granite foundation began. On June 17th, the lighthouse began its 23-day move to its new location, arriving nearly three weeks ahead of schedule. In the end, the Society was the only local group to support moving the lighthouse.
On May 4-6, 2001, OBLHS hosted the Hatteras Keepers Descendants Homecoming. More than $100,000 was raised and countless hours were worked so over 1,100 direct descendants of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse keepers, including the Diamond Shoals Lightship, could attend this reunion. The highlights of the weekend included the unveiling of the Keepers Circle of Stones. The names of 83 identified keepers of the Cape Hatteras lighthouses were engraved on stones from the original foundation. The National Park Service held a rededication ceremony, a panel discussion with attendees and local residents, and a life-saving drill demonstration from volunteers of the Chicamacomico Historical Association rounded out the weekend.
To commemorate the all-volunteer event, we published Hatteras Keepers Oral and Family Histories, by Cheryl Shelton-Roberts and Sandra MacLean Clunies. The book is based on interviews with Cape Hatteras keepers’ families, keepers’ journals, and family photographs for the Homecoming.
In September 2002, we created the video Growing Up at the Lighthouse, a 40-minute tape of the surviving Keeper’s children at the Bodie Island Lighthouse. It is part of our efforts to help with the NPS restoration of the Bodie Island Lighthouse.
Some of our other
= The purchase of architectural drawings of the NC Lights with a grant from the Frank Stick Fund that is now housed in the Outer Banks History Center in Manteo, NC;
= Donation of a plastic U.S. Coast Guard lens equivalent to a fourth order Fresnel lens to the reproduction of the Roanoke River Lighthouse in Plymouth, NC
= Provision of an educational package, mailed free of charge to educators and students across the nation when requested
= Held a special weekend “Two Hundred Years of Light” at the Circle of Stones at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse; special addresses by park staff and authors Homer Hickam, Kevin Duffus, and David Stick made the event memorable (October ‘03)
= Donation of $5,000 to the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum for the restoration and exhibit of the 1854 first order Fresnel lens from the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Several members volunteered during the 4 week project
= Partnership with the NPS for the preservation and maintenance of the Bodie Island Lighthouse first order Fresnel lens, which OBLHS spearheaded a campaign to keep the lens in place.
= Donation of $10,000 to the NPS to get work started at Bodie Island to open the base of the tower to visitors.
This story appeared in the
Jan/Feb 2008 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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