By Sam Walker on April 18, 2013A nearly four-year, $5 million renovation of the Bodie Island Lighthouse culminated Friday, when the 141-year-old beacon opened and visitors could climb to the top for the first time.
The light, extinguished since the morning of Sept. 28, 2009, was turned back on in a ceremony Thursday evening that included descendants of the keepers of the station located north of Oregon Inlet.
The National Park Service is limiting the number of people who can make the trip each day up the 214 steps to the top of the 156-foot tower, which was built in 1871.
Restoration started in late 2009 but was stopped in spring 2011 after significant new structural integrity issues were found in many of the main support beams under the balcony.
The additional repairs were too costly to finish in the original restoration project.
Funding requests were approved to complete the restoration work starting in March 2012, with a $1.89 million contract awarded to United Builders Group of New Bern.
The work involved restoring deteriorated metal and components on the lantern level, including support beams, masonry and railing, and replacing galley cornice segments.
Work also entailed painting interior and exterior masonry, replacing windows and glass on lantern level, repairing the oil house marble floor and roof and installing new windows, painting all newly installed metals and wood, installing a fire detection and suppression system and rehabilitating electrical power, plus installing stair strengtheners.
On Thursday, media members were given a guided tour of the lighthouse, from the oil room and keeper’s office on the ground level, to the top of the steps in the lens room.
This allowed a view only a select few have ever had: Standing within inches of the hundreds of prisms that make up the first-order Fresnel lens, which produces a light that can be seen from 19 miles away.
The lens room will not be open to the public, who will be limited to a short stay on the observation deck just below.
But on a clear day the view from there does not disappoint, stretching at least 15 miles.
[slideshow_deploy id='97463']Photos by Sam Walker
It is a stunning 360-degree panorama that includes not only the pristine marshland that makes up the southern end of Bodie Island, but also an uninterrupted view of the Atlantic Ocean, Roanoke and Pamlico sounds, and Oregon Inlet.
Then there is the scene of the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center, the village of Wanchese, the towns of Manteo, Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills, all laid out to look almost like a model train display.
The public was able to climb to the top Friday at no charge.
Tours start every 35 minutes and are 45 minutes long. Each guided tour is limited to 22 people. Children must be at least 42 inches tall, and kids under 12 must be escorted by a person at least 16 years old.
Starting Saturday, and continuing seven days a week until Columbus Day on Oct. 14, the charge to climb the lighthouse will be $8 per person, and $4 for senior citizens 62 or older, children 11 years of age and under, and for those holding a National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Access Pass.
Half of the daily tickets for climbing Bodie Island will be available on a first-come, first-served basis at the Visitors Center in the keepers quarters.The other half will be available for reservation by phone at 252-475-9417 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m, seven-days-a-week. The reservation center will open April 22.
The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in Buxton also reopens Friday for climbing.
Climbing hours for the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse will be 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily in the spring and fall seasons and 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. May 24 through Labor Day, Monday, September 2.
Climbing tickets for Cape Hatteras Lighthouse are $7 for adults and $3.50 for senior citizens (62 or older), children 11 years of age and under, and those holding a National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Access Pass.
Tickets are available on a first come, first served basis and can only be purchased in-person at the site the day of the climb. There are no advance ticket sales for the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
Children must be at least 42 inches tall. Children under 12 must be escorted by a person at least 16 years old.
Ticket sales begin at 8:15 a.m. Climbing will begin at 9:00 a.m. and will run every 10 minutes with a limit of 30 visitors per climb time.
Ticket sales close at 4:30 p.m. in the spring and fall seasons and 5:30 p.m. May 24 through Labor Day.