The Keeper's Quarters at Cape Hatteras Lighthouse consist of a two-story brick house for the head keeper (3 views at left), and a two-story wood duplex for the assistant keepers (2 views at right). The interior of the head Keeper's Quarters is being restored and is not presently open, though you can look in through the windows. The duplex serves as a museum and gift shop, and both floors are open to the public.
The assistant keeper's duplex interior is all wood paneling and wood floors, even wood ceilings. The photos at right show the east side stairs to the second floor, and a second floor room used for museum displays. One of those displays is this handsome brass Lyle gun seen below. With its wooden "carriage" it weighs almost 200 pounds.

Several sections of a 1st Order Fresnel lens are also on display, seen in the photo at right. The lenses are made up of many dozens of individual finely ground glass prisms. Each prism is mounted at the optimum angle within a framework to capture the light from the beacon and focus it in a horizontal beam. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse used to have a 1st Order Fresnel lens, as Bodie Island and Currituck Beach Lighthouses still do. Now Cape Hatteras (and Cape Lookout) Lighthouse uses dual rotating airport beacons, back to back, separated by a panel. This can be plainly seen in the photo at left below.

The twin beacons at left are separated by a piece of plywood painted black. This black plywood and one of the white beacon lanterns can be seen above the heavy metal flooring mesh in the photo at right. This photo was taken looking up from the top floor of the lighthouse just inside the door to the gallery. The large fluted metal cylinder with the decorative grille work around the top edge held the 1st Order Fresnel lens. It is evident there was pride in the work being done back in 1870. Even machinery, hidden high atop a lighthouse where no one but the lighthouse keeper would see it, was embellished with artistic and decorative detail.

The photo at right is a wider angle shot, showing the whole unit, with gears and rollers, which allowed it to turn using a weighted drive mechanism, somewhat like the weights and chains inside a grandfather clock. The steps from this work room up to the lantern room are visible to the left of the gray mechanism in the photo.
Getting to the top of the lighthouse to see the beacon and get a view from the gallery is half the fun. But you obviously have to start at the bottom. It's here that an appreciation of the fine workmanship that went into building this lighthouse begins. The grand scale of the entrance (photo above) is unrivaled among North Carolina's other lighthouses. Here the fine workmanship is quite evident. The granite is carved and shaped to slope away from the door frames, as seen at right.

The granite stonework and brick octagonal base was surely meant to impress, in spite of the remoteness of the structure in 1870. Why would anyone build something with such grand detail on an isolated island with practically no one to see it up close but a few resident fishermen and the keepers? Taking such pride in craftsmanship seems to be a thing of the past. But thankfully we can still see today the wonderful workmanship that went into Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

Entering the doorway (above right) we see the floor is tiled in black and white marble. On the left wall is a marble plaque, shown in a close-up at left, giving the construction date and original coordinates of the lighthouse.

The "well", in the center of the base floor (photo at right), is where the weights that powered the beacon rotating mechanism were lowered for inspection and servicing. In the alcove part-way up the first flight of steps is a square red drum, used for storing lantern oil. There are more of these alcoves at the base made for oil storage containers, but only one presently has a container in it.

Beginning the climb.

View of the base from just above the 1st landing.

View of the 1st flight of stairs and 1st landing from a base alcove.

Step and banister detail view.

Unlike the unrestricted view at Bodie Island and Currituck Beach, the landings at Cape Hatteras alternate sides, limiting the view to two flights.

Every step riser is
decorated with this
flower motif.

Step risers bolt together
in modular fashion much
like Bodie Island and
Currituck Beach.

No matter how you look at it, the stair view is limited.

A better view of the oil storage canister.

Window alcoves become shallower as you reach the top.

The very last flight
of steps is cased
in iron.

The floor of every landing is marble, just like the first floor.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is masterfully constructed and richly detailed, and is certainly worthy of being the most famous lighthouse in the world. It is a marvel in every respect. But respect is the one thing the park service forgot when laying out the facilities in the new location. There can be no arguing that the park service made regrettable errors in its arrangement of buildings and parking at the lighthouse's new home after the move.

The only unobstructed view of the lighthouse in its new home is from the front of the assistant Keeper's Quarters. Every other half-decent view is either too far away, or obstructed by something. Just take a look at this view from the parking lot, shown at right. Does this not look like a carnival? Why were the restrooms and bookstore placed in front of the lighthouse? Do people come to see the lighthouse or the restrooms?

Yes, folks. Hurry, hurry, hurry. Step right up, get in line and buy your ticket to see the famous lighthouse. It's only six bucks, and it'll buy you five minutes at the top. All you have to do is climb 257 steps. That's a bargain, isn't it?
Continue to Cape Hatteras Lighthouse - Page Three > Cape

Navigate to individual lighthouse pages with these buttons.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
- Page One

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
- Page Three

Beautiful Photos of
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in the Lighthouse Gallery

Beautiful Photos of
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in the Lighthouse Gallery

Copyright © 2003 Fred Hurteau           * Copyright information and image use policy *

home about map parks sports ferrys birds wright lighthouses folklore JRidge ocracoke Scenig Places Ferrys Wild Horses dynamic Intercoastal Waterway contact gallery Shipwrecks