Initial steps are being taken to give the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse a well-deserved restoration from the inside out, and the first portion of the project – the design phase – is already underway, per an update from the National Park Service.
Built in 1868-70, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse has understandably suffered some wear and tear due to regular exposure to salt air, high winds, intense sunlight, and a 2,900 ft. move to its current location in 1999.
“It’s an amazing structure,” said Mark Dowdle, Deputy Superintendent of the National Park Service (NPS) Outer Banks Group. “It’s known and loved by so many, and is part of the environment of the Outer Banks. But it needs some work from time to time, and it’s time to do some of that work now.”
The upcoming renovation will address a myriad of repairs and upgrades, which range from the marble surfaces in the interior, to the light at the top of the 198-foot tall structure.
The ongoing data collection and design phase will allow the National Park Service to determine exactly what the future work will entail, as well as the timeframe for the overall project.
“Basically, the contractor is outlining what needs to be done. We have not awarded a contract for construction yet, but this will help determine the language that would go into a contract for the repairs,” said Dowdle.
Local NPS representatives are working with national colleagues in the cultural resources arena, and a contractor has been enlisted to assist with this initial design phase.
“We know we have a number of items that we need to address,” said Dowdle. “For example, we know we need to repair the brick and mortar [components], the marble floors that are in the entryway, and the first eight flights of stairs.”
In addition, the lighthouse has a number of metal components – including the roof – which are particularly vulnerable to corrosion in the coastal environment. As such, a lot of work will be concentrated on making repairs to the existing metal parts, or replacing any deteriorating parts as needed.
Renovations or upgrades to the beacon at the top of the structure are also being considered during the design phase. The beacon still serves as an active aid to navigation, and the light fixture is monitored and managed by the U.S. Coast Guard, so the NPS is partnering with the Coast Guard to see what an upgrade to the light would entail.
Finally, (and what will likely be one of the most noticeable aspects of the restoration), the exterior of the lighthouse will also get a fresh new coat of paint during the upcoming project. “That’s the bow on the design package,” said Dowdle.
Once the design phase is complete and a contractor has been enlisted for the work, actual construction on the project is slated to begin in the spring or summer of 2021. “That will be dependent on getting our design package completed, and [what the work] entails,” said Dowdle. “Because we are still gathering data, we are not exactly sure when the project will be completed once we start.”
“Construction will take some time, and we do expect the lighthouse to be closed to visitors for one or two climbing seasons when the work is underway.”
The project has been in the works for years, and the National Park Service has already received funding for the upcoming repairs. The items that need to be addressed stem from the results of a 2014 Comprehensive Condition Assessment Report and a 2016 Historic Structure Report.
Though the exact timeline and the extent of repairs are still being determined, these initial steps will help create a clearer picture of the details, and will propel the project forward in the months and years to come. In the meantime, lighthouse fans can look forward to a facelift and a fresh look for the 150-year-old landmark in the not-so-distant future.