Long Route to Roanoke River Lighthouse

1916 Roanoke River Lighthouse

The lighthouse in 1916. Image from
North Carolina Historic Sites.

On February 6, 1832, Elizabeth City congressman William Shepard petitioned the House of Representatives for a light station to help guide sailors to safety by the mouth of the Roanoke River.

Two years later, Congress appropriated $10,000 for a lightship to operate on the Albemarle Sound. The ship operated through the Civil War, but was replaced by a screw-pile lighthouse that operated on whale oil in 1867. That structure, in turn, was damaged by fire and ice in the 1880s.

A larger lighthouse, the one that currently stands, was authorized in 1886 and finished by 1887. It was fitted with a Fresnel lens and continued to operate until 1941, when it was decommissioned by the Coast Guard.

The 1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse changed hands twice in the 1950s, sold for $10 each time. Edenton businessman Emmett Wiggins moved the structure to land he owned in the Chowan County town in 1955, and he lived in the building until his death.

In 2007, the Edenton Historical Commission purchased the lighthouse and restored it in cooperation with the state of North Carolina. The restored lighthouse opened to the public as part of Historic Edenton State Historic Site in 2012.

Visit: The lighthouse is open every day of the week just steps from downtown Edenton.

Other related resources:

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.