Cape Hatteras Lighthouse celebrates 150 years, virtual program planned

Posted at 6:40 AM, Dec 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-16 11:23:41-05

BUXTON, N.C. - The tallest brick lighthouse in North America celebrates 150 years lighting the way for ships at sea on Wednesday.

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was lit for the first time on December 16, 1870.

To mark the occasion, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore is holding a virtual celebration starting at 4:45 p.m.; livestreaming the lighting of lighthouse on its Facebook page followed by a commemoration video.

"A pretty monumental moment to think of probably what's become one of the most iconic lighthouses in the nation, if not the world," said Scott Babinowich, Chief of Interpretation and Education for the Outer Banks group of the National Park Service. "It still is an active aid to navigation."

Babinowich calls the lighthouse 'a silent witness to history,' not only guiding ships at sea, but also playing a pivotal role in the world wars while surviving hurricanes and other natural disasters.

"It's a story of resilience, it's a story of adaptation and its longevity has created a kind of culture around it," he said. "The Outer Banks is such a popular tourist destination. We have people that come here for generations."

According to Babinowich, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the National Park Service to think differently when it comes to events, opting for a virtual celebration out of an abundance of caution.

In addition to Wednesday's event, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Facebook page has featured interesting facts and pictures of the lighthouse each day this month.

It's a lot different than the lighthouse's 100th anniversary celebration in 1970, Babinowich says, which he describes as a week-long event filled with banquets, a parade and other in-person events.

Still, going virtual has its upside.

"We're hoping we have a very strong reach with this. That we'll be able to reach people that wouldn't have come here regardless of COVID-19 or not," said Babinowich. "Our virtual engagement has really exploded over these last couple months and it's really exciting to see where that's going to take us."

Babinowich is also involved in another virtual celebration centered on the Outer Banks -- for National Wright Brothers Day, which falls on Thursday.

National parks are currently open to the public. Click HERE for more information.