Roger Bansemer

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Information and illustrations about Currituck lighthouse by artist & author Roger Bansemer.
Currituck Lighthouse
Corolla, North Carolina
1875

Currituck Lighthouse
Information and illustrations about Currituck lighthouse by artist & author Roger Bansemer.©
Currituck lighthouse print

Original painting also available


Currituck Lighthouse
Information and illustrations about Currituck lighthouse by artist & author Roger Bansemer.©

Original painting available

Currituck lighthouse print
Original painting also available

Large shade trees and well-manicured shrubbery are all part of the present day Currituck lighthouse setting where you can spend a relaxing few hours while sitting in one of the green rocking chairs along the red brick walkways. It didn’t always look like this however. When the lighthouse was first lit in 1875 there was very little foliage and trees around the grounds or on any of the Outer Bank islands in general. It was primarily sand dunes, desolate and barren. Few trees grew as there was little to hold the sand in place for vegetation to get a foothold. In the 1930’s the Civilian Conservation Corp began to haul shipwrecks that literally covered the beaches up into the dune line creating a barrier to prevent erosion. Vegetation was then planted which began the stabilization of these islands.

Today the dunes around the Currituck lighthouse are covered with large homes and the area has been built up considerably. Arriving at the lighthouse it is a welcomed visual relief from all the development. Building the lighthouse, along with the lighthouses to the south including Bodie Island, Cape Hatteras, and Cape Lookout was a difficult task. It is very shallow in this area and ships had to offload their supplies including the million bricks it took to build the lighthouse onto smaller shallow draft boats as far as eight miles offshore. They in turn brought the material to the backside of the island where it was transferred to a long dock and then onto a tramway that led to where construction was taking place. Of the four lighthouses on the Outer Banks, all very similar in design, it was decided that the Currituck Beach lighthouse be left its natural brick color after it was built to help distinguish it from the others that are all painted with distinctive stripes and bands.

The Victorian stick-style two story keepers house is a duplex, split vertically in the middle with both sides being the same and each side having its own cistern for water. Originally the Currituck lighthouse was constructed from pre-cut materials each piece was labeled and shipped by the U.S. Lighthouse Board on a barge and then assembled on site. Babies were born here at the lighthouse and those children schooled here but when the lighthouse was automated in 1939 it eliminated the need for a keeper and the house began to deteriorate almost beyond repair. Doors and windows were broken or missing and the porches had fallen in. Vines covered the outside and parts of the inside as well.

In 1980 the Outer Banks Conservationists, Inc. began restoring what was left of the structure. Today it is beautifully restored and you never would guess that it was once about to fall down entirely. It is complete with period furnishings but used only on special occasions. Thanks to organizations such as these, the rest of us are able to enjoy these wonderful treasures from the past. They have done a remarkable job and even though originally pre-fabricated, the keepers house imparts a sense of how beautifully things were made and the caring way they were constructed. I think it must have gone along with values in general back when this lighthouse was the most important structure on the beach.

A second and smaller keepers house also sits near the keepers house. It was moved to the island around 1920 as a residence for a third keeper and his family. That too has been restored and serves as a museum shop. Best of all, you can climb the 214 steps to the top of the 162 foot lighthouse and be rewarded with a grand view of the island. Climbers are restricted from the gallery only during bad weather or high winds. The lighthouse is open to the public every day from Easter through Thanksgiving. During the height of the summer season almost a thousand people a day visit the light and beautifully kept grounds. A nearby boardwalk from the lighthouse leading down to the inland side of the island offers a distant view of the tower and a chance to view nature at its quietest moments.

You can’t talk about the Outer Banks without mentioning the wild Spanish mustangs. Thought to have come ashore from the wrecks of galleons some four hundred years ago, these horses once roamed freely along the shores. In 1926 there were an estimated six thousand horses on the Outer Banks. In recent years however, roads have been extended through Corolla opening the northern Outer Banks to unprecedented development. More and more of the horses were being hit and killed by automobiles so many were relocated and today there are only about fifty horses remaining. With the exception of a stray horse now and then, the very northern end of the beach is the only place to see these marvelous Corolla horses which are distinct from the other wild horses on the outer banks. This twelve-mile relatively undeveloped section of beach covering 15,000 acres has been fenced in for their protection.

Not far to the south from the lighthouse at Corolla is Kitty Hawk, where the Wright Brothers first took to the air. The lighthouse played a subtle but large part in the history of early flight. It happened when the wife of lighthouse keeper W.J. Tate received a letter from Wilbur Wright asking for a report on the lay of the land in regard to hills around nearby Kitty Hawk and information about weather conditions in that area. She replied with a full accounting and several months later Wilbur arrived by boat followed by brother Orville. The Tates hosted them and during this time the obliging lighthouse keeper and his wife lent their moral support despite ridicule of the project from most others. They also gave them a place to construct one of their experimental gliders and helped sew the fabric for the wings. Friends from the start, they remained so throughout their lives.

Orville and Wilber Wright flipped a coin to see who would test out their aircraft made of wood and fabric and Orville won the toss. December 17, 1903 went down in history as he flew for twelve seconds and 120 feet for mans first successful powered flight at nearby Kill Devil Hill. They subsequently made over a thousand flights from the high dunes. A memorial to the Wrights and their achievements at Kill Devil Hills is open to the public
Roger Bansemer©


Information and illustrations about Currituck lighthouse by artist & author Roger Bansemer.©


The lighthouse is open every day from Easter through Thanksgiving from 10:00 am until 6:00 pm (5:00 pm after daylight savings time ends. It is closed during bad weather and high winds. Call 252-453-4939

For the official Currituck Lighthouse website

Currituck Lighthouse Map, Outer Banks NC