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Historic Photos Celebrate 150 Years of Light

Historic photos are of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse are on display in the seashore’s visitor center. Photo: John M. Havel

Reprinted from Island Free Press

In conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the lighting of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, a new exhibit that pays tribute to the iconic landmark’s long history through a series of historic photographs is on display at the lighthouse’s visitor center and bookstore.

The temporary exhibit, “150 Years of Light, a Photographic Tribute,” includes 57 photographs from almost every decade of the lighthouse’s lifespan. The collection includes the earliest known photo from 1893, images from the 1930s when storms and erosion caused the lighthouse to be abandoned, and images from the 1940s when the Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCCs, pitched camp just south of the lighthouse.

As the decades progress, photos from the 1950s highlight the rise of tourism in the Outer Banks, when motels and roads were first built, and postcards and posters were created to attract new waves of visitors. The display also includes a series of photos from the “Move of the Century,” when the lighthouse was meticulously relocated inland in 1999 to save it from the encroaching Atlantic Ocean.

The exhibit is currently on display at the visitor center through the spring of 2021. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

In addition, the Dare County Arts Council is hosting a virtual art exhibit for folks who want to explore the visual history of the lighthouse, but who are unable to make an in-person visit to the Buxton exhibit. The “Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Virtual Art Show showcases a variety of artworks featuring the lighthouse, and is accessible online at

The Buxton exhibit was orchestrated by John M. Havel, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Researcher and Board Member of the Outer Banks Lighthouse Society, Jami Lanier, park service cultural resources manager, and Jonathan Polk, supervisory ranger of Interpretation and Education at Cape Hatteras, as well as a team of volunteers.

This story is provided courtesy of the Island Free Press, a digital newspaper covering Hatteras and Ocracoke islands. Coastal Review Online is partnering with the Free Press to provide readers with more environmental and lifestyle stories of interest along our coast. 

About the Author

Joy Crist

Joy Crist is a Hatteras Island resident since 1998 and a writer and columnist with the Island Free Press. Her work has also appeared in a number of regional Outer Banks and statewide websites and publications.