Diamond City, NC History

History of Cape Lookout


Reprinted from Carteret County Heritage - Volume I, Carteret County Historical Society

Lighthouses mark the track of civilization, and are symbols of each stage. Cape Lookout was listed early as Promontorium Tremenduum,” translated by sailors as “Horrible Headland.” Offshore shoals ran out about ten miles, yet the Cape also, from earliest times provided one of the best protected and most easily entered anchorages that could be found south of the Chesapeake.

In 1606 England had claimed all the coast from Maine to the Cape Fear River, roughly. The Queen stole it fair and square from the Indians, and ordered execution for anyone who disagreed.

In 1800 there were but `6 lighthouses in the United States, Hatteras and Ocracoke Lights first operating in 1799. Under the Act of March 26, 1804, the first lighthouse site at Lookout, 4 acres total, was deeded to the citizens by Joe Fulford and Elijah Pigott on February 18, 1805.

Cape Lookout Light was officially in operation in time for the War of 1812. It consisted of two towers, the inside of brick, the outside a wood framed building boarded and shingled and painted red and white horizontal stripes, it stood 96 feet.

On May 3, 1830, Fulford, Pigott and others, for the sum of $75, sold 15 acres to the United States, reserving fishing privileges for themselves and their descendants. The present light was built on this land, 1856 to 1859, again in time for the next war. It was 150 feet, all brick. It was improved in scope in 1873 and painted in the familiar black and white lozenges or diamonds we all know today. The old tower was listed in navigational chronicles as late as 1890.

The first tower cost $20,678.54, the present tower, $45,000, and when it was painted in 1968 the bill was $9,444. A first-order Fresnel lens was used initially. Today the light is a light and reflector combination.

Other historical facts: The first known construction at the Cape was a fort (Hancock) built during the latter 1700s by the French. The lumber came from the Cape Woods. The Life Saving Service was set up in 1871; by ‘76 North Carolina was included, with eventually 20 stations, among them Ocracoke, Portsmouth, Core Banks, Cape Lookout, Fort Macon and Bogue Inlet.

From "Our Shared Past" prepared for the Diamond City & Ca'e Bankers Reunion, August 1999 as a collection of writings, research and recollections to tell the story of the Banks communities.
Copyright 1995, Core Sound Waterfowl Museum
All rights reserved.

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