first Bodie Island Lighthouse tipped over. The second one was blown up
the third one, nearly undone by wicked weather, budget woes, and a
bureaucratic tug-of-war, has emerged as the little lighthouse that
Restoration of the Bodie Island Lighthouse is as close as it’s ever
been to being realized, with only a routine budget procedure to be
resolved before the start of the final leg of the project.
“Once we get the account number, we can proceed with the contract,”
Doug Stover, National Park Service Outer Banks Group historian, said
Stover said the information could come any day.
By the spring of 2013, the 1872 brick beacon is expected to be open for
the public to climb for the first time ever. And its spectacular first
order Fresnel lens, now repaired and in storage, will have been
returned to the lantern room atop the 156-foot tower.
Bett Padgett, president of the Outer Banks Lighthouse Society, is not
quite ready to cheer.
“We really, really have high hopes,” Padgett said hesitantly, adding
that the group was originally founded in 1994 to save the Bodie
lighthouse. “But we have had high hopes for the last 14 years and there
has been disappointment.
“This time, I really have my head up to the heavens. I really think
it’s going to happen.”
Located in marshlands overlooking Oregon Inlet, the black-and-white
banded lighthouse near Nags Head’s southern border had been often
treated like the plainer stepsister to taller and more famous Cape
Hatteras Lighthouse in Buxton.
While the Hatteras tower was lovingly restored in 1999 during a
high-profile $12 million relocation project, Bodie
eked by on leftovers, leaving Park Service managers enough to do
patchwork repairs. Even after the Coast Guard in 2000 gave up ownership
of the lighthouse, and later the lens, the Park Service repeatedly was
thwarted in its attempts to restore the Bodie tower.
When it was acquired from the Coast Guard, pieces of the cast-iron
metalwork were missing at the top and metalwork in the lantern room,
gallery deck, and support brackets was deteriorating. Some of
205 steps in the spiral staircase were corroding. At one
the Coast Guard, which had maintained control of the navigational aid,
wanted the Park Service to replace the historic Fresnel lens with a
But after strong protest, the Coast Guard relented and let the Park
Service take over responsibility for the lens, which has since
undergone a $100,000 restoration.
Despite chunks of metal falling from the balcony in 2004, it took more
than five years to secure $3 million needed to restore the tower. But
the project that began in 2009 had to be delayed after additional
damage was found in the lighthouse, including its framing, support
beams and masonry.
Last year, while the Park Service worked out budgetary issues, all the
scaffolding that had surrounded the lighthouse was taken down.
Stover said that about $1.9 million has been secured to finish the
restoration. The first task will be putting back the
But the most time-consuming part of the project --- getting the
metalwork done at the foundry --- has been completed. The windows have
been fixed and delivered to the museum storage facility on Roanoke
it’s pretty much just getting all the jigsaw pieces and putting it all
together,” he said.
repairs at the double-keepers quarters at the Light Station is being
done, Stover said.
Irene in August flooded the Visitor Center,
buckling the wooden floors. Winds blew off the canvas covering the
windows atop the lighthouse, and floodwaters relocated all the parking
lot barriers into the adjacent swamps.
Visitor Center will remain closed for the next couple of months, he
said, but visitors are permitted on the grounds.
the lighthouse restoration is completed, hopefully by spring 2013
Stover said, it is expected to be opened for climbing for probably
about the same fee it costs to climb the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. But
the numbers of climbers are expected to be more restricted than
Hatteras, he said.
said that she expects that Bodie Island Lighthouse, which is one of the
few in the nation with its original Fresnel lens, will quickly become
view from the top features a panorama of the sound, the marshland , the
ocean, Oregon Inlet and the Bonner Bridge. If it’s opened in the
evening like at Cape Hatteras for special events, climbers can be
treated to glorious sunsets and full moons.
“I imagine it’s going to be one of the largest draws for lighthouses in
the United States,” she said. “It’s very special.”