Old Baldy Lighthouse
The historic lighthouse on
Bald Head Island was built in
Old Baldy Lighthouse - Bald Head Island, North Carolina
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Old Baldy Lighthouse, North Carolina
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Old Baldy Lighthouse, North Carolina
Old Baldy Lighthouse
Built in 1817, the historic Old Baldy Lighthouse is a
fixture on scenic Bald Head Island at North
Carolina's renowned Cape Fear.
North Carolina's Oldest Light
Overlooking some of the most historic waters
in America, North Carolina's historic Old
Baldy lighthouse is one of the oldest such
structures in the South.

Built in 1817 on the site of an earlier light that
lasted only 18 years, Old Baldy takes its
name from Bald Head Island, a unique
coastal island located in the mouth of the
famed Cape Fear River. It was near here that
Sir Walter Raleigh's colonists feared disaster
in route to what would become the legendary
"Lost Colony" of Roanoke and it was also at
the mouth of the Cape Fear that the infamous
pirate Stede Bonnet was captured by the

Cape Fear marked the beginning of one of
the most shipwreck-strewn coasts in the
world, dubbed the "Graveyard of the Atlantic."
In an effort to assist ships making their way
to the growing port city of Wilmington, the still
new government of the United States funded
the construction of a lighthouse on Bald
Head Island in 1795. The original tower,
however, was improperly sited and lasted
only until 1813. Threatened by erosion, it was
dismantled and many of the bricks used to
build the existing lighthouse.

Today's Old Baldy was constructed in 1817 at
a cost of just under $16,000. Octagonal in
shape, the lighthouse stands 110 feet high
and has brick walls that measure up to 5 feet
thick at its base. It was originally powered
using 15 whale oil lamps.

Confederate forces took possession of the
light in 1861 and darkened the tower to
prevent its use by the blockade ships of the
Union navy. A massive earthwork - Fort
Holmes - was built at its base in 1863. The
powerful fort once mounted as many as 18
guns was defended by nearly 1,000 Southern
soldiers. Never the focus of a major attack,
Fort Holmes was abandoned following the
fall of nearby Fort Fisher.

Old Baldy was lighted again after the war and
during the 1870s the Cape Fear Lifesaving
Station was placed nearby on Bald Head
Island's east beach. Personnel from the
station stood watch over the island's shore
day and night to rescue the victims of local

Old Baldy was officially deactivated in 1935
and for many years was left to the elements.
In 1975, however, the lighthouse was listed
on the National Register of Historic Places.
Ten years later, the non-profit Old Baldy
Foundation was formed to save the beautiful
old structure. The foundation has gained title
to the historic lighthouse and has undertaken
massive preservation and restoration efforts.
Please click here to visit their website.

From November 27 through March 15, Old
Baldy is open Friday and Saturday from 10
a.m. until 4 p.m. and on Sundays from 11
a.m. until 4 p.m. The cost of admission is $5
for adults and $3 for youth ages 3 to 12. Kids
2 and under are admitted free.

Bald Head Island can only be reached by
private boat or by passenger ferry from Deep
Point Marina at 1301 Ferry Road in Southport,
North Carolina.
Please click here for ferry
schedule and cost information.
View from the Lighthouse
Visitors can now climb the
lighthouse, thanks to the Old
Baldy Foundation.
Distant View of Old Baldy
For more than 190 years, the
lighthouse has weathered the
storms, hurricanes and gales
that gave North Carolina's
coast its reputation as the
"Graveyard of the Atlantic."
Photos by Heather LaBone
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Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
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