To tourists, the Bodie Island Lighthouse is transformed this summer, like a barnacle-covered barrel stave washed up on the nearby beach. The lighthouse is in there, somewhere, a familiar shape obscured by scaffolding and protective sheathing.
Renovation and repair work started – or restarted – in March and is expected to be finished by year’s end.
Congress appropriated about $3.1 million for work on the 1872 lighthouse, with its signature horizontal black-and-white stripes, in 2009. But that work stopped when it was discovered that metal braces holding up the gallery and lantern decks near the top of the tower had cracked and needed to be replaced before other jobs could be completed.
The National Park Service, which now owns the lighthouse, couldn’t get money for the additional repairs right away, so the scaffolding came down. Park officials got the extra $1.89 million needed in January and let a new contract, and the bony exoskeleton went back up in the spring.
When the work is done, the lighthouse will have strengthened supports for its 10 flights of spiral stairs; fresh metal to replace its corroded parts; repaired masonry and stone; better interior lighting and electrical wiring; no-lead interior paint; a fire detection and suppression system; and its Fresnel lens restored to its original condition.
The light was built to reduce maritime wrecks along North Carolina’s Outer Banks, which claimed more ships in the 1800s than any other section of the U.S. coast.
For most of its life, the light has been inaccessible to the public, though locals who happened to have a friend or relative in the Coast Guard were sometimes allowed to scale it and take in the panoramic view.
Cyndy Holda, spokeswoman for the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, which includes the lighthouse, said the National Park Service should have everything in place to open the light to visitors by next April.