Process underway to restore and rehab Cape Hatteras lighthouse

Published 8:27 am Thursday, October 14, 2021

Two lightly attended meetings spelled out the alternatives under consideration for restoration and rehabilitation of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore Superintendent Dave Hallac make the in-person and virtual meeting presentations, held Sept. 28 and Sept. 29. Both presentations are posted on the National Park Service’s planning website: parkplanning.nps.gov/caha.

Comments and questions, which were encouraged at the two meetings, have an Oct. 17 deadline.

Hallac showed graphic rusting on metal work in the famed lighthouse. Replacing metal work damage will be repaired with fabricated replacements. Interior paint has been removed only to show mysterious repairs. Some seven to nine layers of paint – much with lead – were removed from the interior. Masonry has cracks. Marble flooring is cracked.

Non-sympathetic improvements like the shade awning over the oil house, rusting grates on windows for safety and a modern door on the oil house will be removed.

The two alternatives have differences. Hallac called the B alternative “good” and the C alternative “even better.” For both, the historic period for restoration is 1870 to 1936.

Differences between the alternatives are:

For the Fresnel lens, Alternative B would build a replica. Alternative C would install the existing historic artifact now in the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum.

At the in-person meeting, John Havel, with Havel Research Associates, objected to installing the “168-year old extraordinary invention of precision optics and machinery that is the only known and surviving first-order Fresnel lens of the first two purchased and brought to America.”

In his prepared remarks, Havel said “It deserves to be respected and given as much care as we can provide for future North Carolinians, Americans and lighthouse enthusiasts from around the world.”

Havel reported that over 40 replicas of the Fresnel lens have been installed in lighthouses, he thinks, without upkeep being needed. He said “check it out.”

Joe Schwarzer, director of North Carolina’s Maritime Museums, said about the Fresnel lens, “if it moves to the Cape Hatteras site, that’s fine; if it stays at the museum, that’s fine.” He encouraged the park service to make a decision “in the near future.”

The National Park Service is still working on the cost figures to restore the lens, Hallac said in response to a question. “It will be expensive.”

Another difference concerns the keeper stones now arranged in an amphitheater at the lighthouse site.

Alternative B leaves the stones, which are engraved with the names of all lighthouse keepers, in place. Alterative C states “re-purpose the keeper’s stones.” Under consideration is arranging the stones along the sidewalk under consideration for the east side of the lighthouse.

At the virtual meeting, 10 expert panelists attended and 16 people attended. At the in-person meeting, more than 10 people showed up, including national seashore staff.

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