Video: 20 years ago today, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse move began

The lighthouse just past the halfway point of the move on June 30, 1999. [NPS photo]

On June 17, 1999, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse began moving from where it was built in 1870 to a spot just over a half-mile to the southwest, saving the nation’s tallest brick lighthouse from the threat of erosion by the Atlantic Ocean.

A total of seven historic structures that make up the Cape Hatteras Light Station were relocated in 1999, and were placed in spatial and elevational relationship to each other, exactly as they had been at the original site.

“While the National Park Service has met its obligation to both historic preservation and coastal protection, the much-heralded move of the historic station, especially the lighthouse, was hotly debated and closely watched,” as noted on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore webpage that documents the move.

Using horizontally mounted hydraulic jacks which pushed the tower along a track system in 5-foot increments, it took just 23 days to move the 4,830 ton brick beacon 2,900 feet to its new location, at a cost of $11.8 million.

International Chimney Corp. of Buffalo, New York was awarded the contract to move the lighthouse, assisted, among other contractors, by Expert House Movers of Maryland.

The 20th anniversary of the move will be formally celebrated on July 1st at 9:30 a.m. with speeches, a question and answer session with expert panelists, artifacts from the lighthouse move, expanded interpretive ranger talks, activities for children, and free lighthouse climbing.

The Outer Banks Lighthouse Society and Outer Banks Forever are partnering with Cape Hatteras National Seashore to make this event memorable for visitors and the local community.

Expanded interpretive programming is taking place on the grounds of Cape Hatteras Light Station through July 9. Park rangers are also presenting daily lighthouse move programs through October 14.

WRAL-TV in Raleigh produced a documentary about the move that originally aired in September 1999:

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Sam Walker is news director for, Beach 104, 99.1 The Sound, 94.5 WCMS and Classic Rock 92.3. Reach him at

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