The public will be able to climb the spiral staircase to the top of the Bodie Island Lighthouse for the first time Friday and take in an unusual view of the Outer Banks.
It’s unusual because just about all you’ll see from up there is the Atlantic Ocean on one side, Pamlico Sound on the other, and the marsh grass and maritime forest in between.
“From the top of Bodie Island Lighthouse, the only thing that is man-made and visible is the keeper’s house below,” said Bett Padgett of Raleigh, president of the Outer Banks Lighthouse Society. “It is pure beauty.”
Padgett and other society members were to be on hand when the lighthouse was relit Thursday evening, ending a three-year renovation and restoring a beacon that has flashed over nearby Oregon Inlet for more than 135 years. It’s a big moment for members of the society, which was formed in 1994 with the goal of seeing the Bodie Island Lighthouse restored.
When it was completed in 1872, the Bodie Island Lighthouse sent its warning to sailors along a stretch of the Outer Banks that had been dark since an earlier lighthouse was destroyed during the Civil War. Its light was magnified by a Fresnel lens, made of 344 glass prisms that were removed during the restoration and cleaned, and now have been reassembled atop the 170-foot tower.
Except for one weekend in 1988, the public has not been allowed to climb the 214 steps to the top of the Bodie Island Lighthouse, first because it was a working lighthouse and then because it was in such poor shape it wasn’t considered safe.
Congress set aside about $3.1 million to renovate the lighthouse in 2009. But the job proved more difficult than expected when workers discovered that metal braces holding up the gallery and lantern decks near the top had cracked and needed to be replaced. The National Park Service, which owns the lighthouse, needed to find an additional $1.89 million before work could resume last year.
Workers have repaired weathered masonry and stone, replaced corroded metal parts and strengthened the supports for the 10 flights of spiral stairs. They also installed better interior lighting and electrical wiring, as well as a fire detection and suppression system.
The Bodie Island Lighthouse will be the fourth Outer Banks lighthouse, after Cape Lookout, Cape Hatteras and Currituck Beach, to let the public climb to the top. The Bodie Island and Cape Hatteras lighthouses will open for the season Friday and remain open through Columbus Day, Oct. 14.
Tickets to climb both lighthouses, which cost $3.50 to $8, will be free Friday.