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Celebration of 200 Years of Light at Cape Hatteras
by Cheryl Shelton-Roberts
Outer Banks Lighthouse Society

On a late fall day, typically blustery Outer Banks weather greeted a group of over 100 people who came to pause for a while and remember the Cape Hatteras keepers and their families. Huddling together at the Circle of Stones that mark the original site of the 1870 tower, the brisk and salty wind reminded us of the tough conditions under which our coast watchers frequently worked.

For 200 years there has been a light at Cape Hatteras, tended by keepers and their families to mark the Graveyard of the Atlantic. However, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was different from the time it was conceived. For the first time in America, a light was constructed to warn mariners away, not to welcome them into a harbor. Prior to the government taking responsibility for building American lighthouses in 1789, local merchants along the East Coast collected duties on cargoes entering and leaving colonial ports to fund lighthouse construction. These colonial lights burned like neon signs of modern-day businesses. A harbor light meant, “We’re open business, come here and make a deal.” Cape Hatteras, however, was not a friendly light as it warned of dangerous Diamond Shoals and flashed a warning, “Stay as far away as possible.”


A Tribute
The Outer Banks Lighthouse Society did not want the bicentennial of this historic light station site to pass without due commemoration. Just weeks prior to the celebration weekend on October 18, 2003, the tightly-wound Hurricane Isabel rushed onto the Outer Banks and caused havoc and damage of historic proportions. The weekend was cancelled, but due to members' encouragement, the event was replanned.

And it was grand.




Hatteras Lighthouse & Old Glory



Photo: The "Old Glory" flag, with 15 stars and stripes,
was the first American flag raised at Cape Hatteras in 1803.
It flew over the lighthouse again October 18, 2003 in honor
of 200 Years of Light at Cape Hatteras.

The Outer Banks Lighthouse Society co-sponsored the event
with the National Park Service.









This Site Last Updated: Wednesday March 22, 2006 6:56 PM