Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Roanoke River Lighthouse Moved
To Colonial Park In Edenton

1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse
- Moved to Colonial Park in Edenton Bay, this day, May, 23rd, 2007

This morning I got up early to be a part of the latest history of Edenton. In the 1950s a local Edenton resident, Emmett Wiggins, bought the decommissioned light house that had once stood in the mouth of the Roanoke River (shown above) back in the days when most commerce moved by river or train. In the 1800s when the lighthouse was built there were no cars or trucks and our modern magnificent road network did not exist.

Though the Lighthouse was easily seen where Emmett Wiggins placed it across Filbert's Creek, actually getting to the site was difficult. It was hidden down a twisting driveway next to the classic old house (above) that is being restored. You had to open a gate marked "Do Not Enter" after you found the address on a side street in Edenton. I got there early and only one worker was around. Luckily I ran into him by the gate. He was leaving to run an errand but he gave me a directions to the site or else my early arrival might have not worked out so well.

As you wound down the twisting old driveway you would finally round a corner and there it was between some bushes and huge old trees, the water of Edenton Bay out beyond.

After finding a place to park I approached the old lighthouse. It had already been prepared for its trip this day and hooked up to the truck that would assist its move. This final move of the lighthouse was going to be much faster than the efforts that it had taken to move it here back in the 1950s.

As I got out of my car I disturbed a trio of rabbits who were getting their morning breakfast from among the flowers and shrubs near the old tower. I managed to get this picture before he hopped back into the bushes.

As you can see above, it was a really beautiful day, typical of the summers that make this historic Inner Banks town such a popular destination for people all over the east coast. The water was mirror smooth.

One of the people who loves this town of Edenton is the owner of Waff Construction, Inc., Paul Waff, a well known local contractor. Mr. Waff had obtained the contract to make this move mostly out of pride in being a part of something this special. Waff is the company that used pieces of the old "Chowan River" bridge to build the magnificent marina that sits over by Colonial Park, the destination this day, and also built Warf Landing, the new local marina and townhouse complex which we recently covered here.

This is the view most of Edenton has had of the old Lighthouse for the last 50+ years, viewed from Pembroke Circle across Filbert's Creek, one of the many fingers of water that breaks up the shoreline around Edenton.

As the sun gets higher in the sky, workers start arriving to start the move.

There was a considerable amount of news coverage this day, here the helicopter from WAVY TV circles the lighthouse.

With none of the more knowledgeable people around yet, I was interviewed by both WCTI and WITN. I got to sneak in a plug for my blogs while I was telling what I knew about the event. I heard that a portion of both interviews made the 6:00 PM news.

Nancy Nichols from the Chowan County Tourism Development Authority, was one of the first dignataries to arrive. Nancy's group has the great web site called Visit Edenton.

Across the way, you can see many local residents starting to gather on an open lot on Pembroke Circle to watch the move.

As the move is about to start, Waff holds a final gathering of the workers to review safety and details of specific assignments.

The Lighthouse starts to move slowly up the ramp.

After numersous starts and stops over about two hours to adjust planking in the ramp, it is almost on the barge. Nancy Nichols, and Peter Rascoe, special projects Coordinator for Chowan County are beaming with pride. This has been something they have worked on for 10 years.

With the Lighthouse and truck completely on the barge, one of the hardest parts of the move is over.

At this point I joined Mac Privott, owner of Carolina Classic Boats on one of his magnificent 35 foot fishing boats to watch the move by water. You can see details of this famous local company at their web site, The 35 is his top of the line boat, and it was a magnificent machine, something Carolina Classics is famous for. His boats are so well known, even internationally, that exports is a major part of his business.

As we move away from the dock and head out, the 1100 horse power from its twin turbocharged Cummins diesels is smooth, quiet and accelerates the boat easily.

In only a few minutes we have crossed the bay back to the location where they are getting ready to move the barges away from the old site and start the move to Colonial Park using two small tugs.

Moving something this big is not quick, but it does not take long before the Lighthouse is moving slowly along the banks of Edenton Bay, headed to its new home.

As the two smaller tugs move the barge into deeper water, they bring up a larger tug to take over the efforts.

The larger tug swings around the barge with the lighthouse and moves into place.

Ken Manning (above) has been hired to film the lighthouse move for production of a documentary . You can learn more about his services by clicking on his web site here.

The Lighthouse moves steadily foward with the two barges, one for the lighthouse and one for the crane that was used to help load it on the barge, still linked together at this point.

As they near Colonial Park, they stop long enough to separate the two barges.

The barge with the crane is the first to be moved into the Edenton Marina at Colonial Park.

After the crane is in place, they start to move the barge with the Lighthouse into place.

The wind has picked up, and part of the reason for the larger tug becomes obvious. Controlling the movements of the barge requires huge application of power from the tug. This is tricky.

The crew from the crane barge are continuing to set up the ramp to take the Lighthouse off, even as the crew on the Lighthouse barge are bringing it into place.

The wood pad (in the center rear) shows where the Lighthouse will be placed temporarily while it is restored. Ultimately it will replace the gazebo right next to the Marina entrance.

It is tight quarters and moving the barge with the Lighthouse into place takes time.

Getting close, the second barge is pushed into place.

Docked and ready for unloading.

Off the barge and in Colonial Park!

The truck pulls the Lighthouse over to the temporary storage pad awaiting restoration.

In Colonial Park, a large crowd has gathered to watch this historic occasion come to completion.

Above is the architects rendering of what the Lighthouse will look like, sitting at the mouth of the Edenton Marina, when restoration is complete (the gazebo on the left will be removed).

Some of the information about the Lighthouse that makes it so special:

One of the few screw-pile lighthouses left in the world.

The last surviving lighthouse among approximately 20 lighthouses that once dotted NC's inland waterways.

The Town of Edenton actually owns the 1888 Fresnel Lens that was originally located in the lighthouse.

The lighthouse was originally located on pilings in the Albemarle Sound, marking the entrance to the Roanoke River near Plymouth (see first picture at top of article). Plymouth has built its own duplication of an earlier lighthouse as a tourist attraction, but THIS is an original. Learn more about the duplicate by clicking here.

In 1940 the lighthouse was abandoned by the Coast Guard and laid vacant for about 15 years.

In 1955 the Federal Government ordered all remaining North Carolina lighthouses to be removed or destroyed.

Mr. Elijah Tate bought three of the lighthouses but two of them were accidentally demolished in attempting to remove them, only this one of the three survived.

Emmett Wiggins, a World War II Navy Engineer Captain and underwater Salvager bought the lighthouse from Mr. Tate.

Mr. Wiggins performed a major engineering feat by recovering the lighthouse and transporting it to Edenton placing it on land at the mouth of Filbert's Creek.

It was lived in until 1995 by Mr. Wiggins and remained in his family after his death.

For some spectacular VIDEO of the Roanoke River Lighthouse move click here.

On May 15th the structure officially became the property of the Edenton Historical Commission. For further information, you can contact Peter Rascoe, Special Projects Coordinator for Chowan County at (252) 482-8431, or Nancy Nichols, Director of the Chowan County Tourism Development Authority at (252) 482-3400.


At 3:43 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

Great photos, great post. It's thrilling to see the marvels of engineering that have allowed this grand lighthouse to be moved, and not for the first time. Thanks for sharing this.

Spectral Keepers of the Lights


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