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What is the Bald Head Lighthouse made of?

Ben Steelman

Old Baldy lighthouse on Bald Head Island, pictured in 2002, is a piece of history that draws thousands of people each year. StarNews file photo.

Built in 1817 by contractor Daniel S. Way at a cost of just under $16,000, “Old Baldy”consists of a stone foundation, with the tower constructed with brickwork covered by stucco. The rectangular staircase to the top was built with Carolina yellow pine. The “lanthorn,” or room that housed the lighting mechanism, rests on a slab of “marble or freestone,” according to the specifications¬†cited by David Stick in his book, “Bald Head.”

At least some of the bricks in the present lighthouse were salvaged from Bald Head Island’s first lighthouse, completed in 1795. Built too close to the shoreline, it was pulled down in 1813 when threatened with erosion.

Originally, the lighthouse was completely white. Over the years, however, repair crews would patch¬†the stucco, using a different-colored mixture — giving the structure its present “patchwork” appearance, according to the website for the Old Baldy Foundation.

The base of the octagonal tower is 36 feet wide, tapering to 14.5 feet at its top. Its total height is 110 feet.

The oldest surviving lighthouse on the North Carolina coast, “Old Baldy” will mark its bicentennial in 2017.


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