north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

     The dangers of the shoals around the southernmost tip of Core Banks were well-known to the earliest navigators. What we know today as Cape Lookout was marked on the 1590 DeBry map as “Promontorium tremendum,” or “horrible headland.” On the Ogilby map of 1671 Cape Lookout appears with its present name.

     In 1805 Joseph Fulford and Elijah Piggott deeded to the federal government four acres as a site for a lighthouse. The exact date of completion is not known but historian David Stick stated that “it seems to have been put in service sometime in 1812.” This first tower was ninety-six feet tall and made of brick and wood. Attempts to renovate it in the 1850s were judged futile and the Light House Board, a federal panel established in 1851, authorized construction of a new lighthouse. Today the site of the 1812 tower is marked by a pile of rubble.

     Begun in 1857, completed in 1859, and lighted on November 1 of that year, the present tower rising 150 feet became the model for all subsequent lighthouse construction along the Outer Banks. Until the completion of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in 1870, it held the distinction as the tallest such structure south of Delaware Bay, New Jersey. In 1873 the Light House Board approved distinctive paint schemes for the towers, assigning the familiar diamond pattern to Cape Lookout. The small community around the lighthouse adopted the name “Diamond City” around 1885.

Dawson Carr, The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse: Sentinel of the Shoals (1991)
Kevin P. Duffus, The Lost Light: The Mystery of the Missing Cape Hatteras Fresnel Light (2003)
David Stick, North Carolina Lighthouses (1980)
Lynn Brown, “Historic Importance of Cape Lookout Lighthouse,” National Park Service report (1978)

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north carolina highway historical marker program

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources