June 14 was a historic day for North Carolina’s historic Cape Lookout Lighthouse. It was the official day for the unveiling of the new United States postage stamp, which features the lighthouse, and it was also the day that ownership of the lighthouse was officially transferred from Coast Guard ownership to the National Park Service.
The unveiling of the new postage stamp took place at the new Core Sound Waterfowl Museum on Harkers Island and was immediately followed by postal officials departing the area via boat (reminiscent of the mail boat of yesteryear) to Cape Lookout where postal employee volunteers re-commissioned a Cape Lookout Post Office at the keepers house for one week only. Years ago a Cape Lookout Post Office once served the small community around the lighthouse and the Cape Lookout Coast Guard Station. That station was closed in 1915.
This was all good news for the area’s tourist economy. Carteret County Tourism Director Carol Lohr said the new lighthouse postage stamp will expose people around the world to one of the county’s best treasures and would surely draw more people to the lighthouse and the surrounding area. She was obviously right, much sooner than she expected. Postal officials said it was the largest turnout for a postage stamp release in North Carolina’s history.
Much larger crowds than anyone expected, considering there is no bridge to the island where the lighthouse is located, also attended the Change of Ownership Ceremony. Visitors needed to come by ferry boat or by private boats. It was estimated that 5000 people showed up and there were 248 boats counted in the water off the lighthouse.
As part of the Transfer of Ownership event, the lighthouse was opened for public tours, something that has never been done in the past. Many of those who showed up to climb the tower were locals who had never been in the tower before. Unfortunately, many people who stood in the long lines never made it up the tower, as time became the enemy. Although those who weren’t able to climb were offered rain checks for another day, many came from distances much too far away to be able to return.
Cape Lookout National Seashore Superintendent Bob Vogel said plans call for the lighthouse to be open to the public on a regular basis in the future. But that can’t be done until they raise an estimated $2 million for restoration of the structure. Support for that effort comes with the formation of a new non-profit group, the Friends of Cape Lookout National Seashore who will work closely with the National Park Service and the Outer Banks Lighthouse Society to help raise money to achieve that goal.
For more information on the Friends of Cape Lookout contact Richard Meissner at 131 Charles Street, Harkers Island, NC 28531 or call 252-728-2250 Ext. 3008 or email him at Richard_Meissner@partner.nps.gov
This story appeared in the
August 2003 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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