A Move to Drier Ground

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Hatteras-Lighthouse-by-Charles-Boyer

In 1999, the National Park Service moved the 1870 Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in North Carolina 1,500 feet inland to protect it from the encroaching ocean. Even though the beacon had been built 1,500 feet from the seashore, some 129 years of erosion and sea level rise had closed that gap to as little as 50 feet.

While park officials insisted on the move for fear that the building would topple, officials from Dare County tried to prevent the relocation. They worried that the 198-foot structure—the tallest brick lighthouse in the nation—would crumble in the process. The Park Service prevailed in court, and a contractor spent 23 days using rails to roll the beacon to a wooded lot.

Now, almost 20 years later, the lighthouse continues to shine. Its old foundation and the old parking lot, which sits hundreds of feet inland from the beach, flood regularly. The parking lot sometimes has small waves breaking on it, but the new parking lot and the lighhouse did not get flooded by Hurricane Florence. —Pim Van Hemmen

This article originally appeared in the November 2018 issue.