The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Work is just getting underway in restoring the historic structure.

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Work is just getting underway in restoring the historic structure.

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse looks great but not is showing its age. Not like it’s in any danger of falling down or anything like that, but it is time to begin some restoration work.

The interior gets the first treatment and crews have begun the work of stripping the paint off the inside walls.

It’s pretty technical work—not at all like scraping paint off a bedroom wall or in the kitchen. In this case a citric acid solution is being used that dissolves the layers of paint that have been applied over the years. Jerome Kirkland, who is the NPS expert on keeping an eye on the project, said he’s seen at least five coats so far.

And to make it a little more interesting, most of the paint is lead based.

The hope is this first phase of the project will be done by sometime this summer, allowing for a climbing season, even if it is shorter than usual.

The outside will be the big project and and that’s slated for next year. Right now they’re trying to figure out the best way to get the old paint off. According to Kirkland, the experts are leaning toward dry ice. Abrasive when applied to the paint, when it warms it dissipates as carbon dioxide.

At 193’ to the light, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the tallest brick building on the East Coast and probably North America. When it was completed in 1870, it replaced an older lighthouse that was woefully inadequate.

A Brief History of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

The lighthouse board was in charge of maintenance and construction of lighthouses at that time, and they were very aware of how wretched the first Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was. They also understood that Diamond Shoals was a very real danger to shipping.

Historic document show the board was so concerned, that they specifically stated that the cost was secondary to building a lighthouse that would protect shipping.

The final design of the lighthouse called for a double walled building with the a hollow space between the inner and outer walls. The outer wall tapers to the inner wall and the two come together at about 130’.

The technique creates an extraordinarily strong structure—and the history of the lighthouse is proof or that.

The same building design was used for the Bodie Island Lighthouse and Currituck Beach Lighthouse.

Next time visiting the Outer Banks, take a tour of our historic lighthouses and plan you stay in a Brindley Beach Vacation home.