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North Carolina’s Atlantic coast is home to several lighthouses, one of which is the Bodie Island Lighthouse. Bodie Island Lighthouse is halfway between Currituck Beach and Cape Hatteras Lighthouse on Highway 12, south of Nags Head and west of Coquina Beach. It was built in 1872 on Body's Island (the name was originally spelled “Body,” after the name of the family who owned the land) and remains today as one of the classic American light stations. Its magnificent first-order Fresnel lens may still be seen flashing its warning, visible from 19 nautical miles away, each night.

The first Bodie Island Light was created by Stephen Pleasonton, whose main concern about lighthouses was saving money. His inspector would not let the contractor spend money for a proper foundation when the first lighthouse was built in 1848. In addition, it was equipped with a reflector lighting system and never considered an effective light. A short time after it was put to use, the tower started sinking on one side and had to be abandoned.

Congress ordered a new light tower at Bodie Island in 1852 when the U.S. Lighthouse Establishment began rebuilding many American lights that were considered inferior. The second Bodie Island Light was an example of the new look of lighthouses: a conical, brick, iron lantern room equipped with a Fresnel lens and a solid foundation built on piles driven into the earth. Unfortunately, only a few years later, the Bodie Island Light was destroyed by Confederate solders trying to deprive the Union Navy of a navigational aid for its fleet during the Civil War. In 1870, construction foreman Dexter Stetson broke down the messroom, barracks, blacksmith shop, and various work buildings and moved them to the site of the new Bodie Island, about a mile north where Oregon Inlet would not threaten the new tower with erosion.

The 150-foot tower was another example of the tall coastal lights that would make North Carolina a destination for lighthouse enthusiasts a century later. Today, when volunteers are present, the lower portion of the lighthouse is open for visitors to step inside and look up at the magnificent 214 stairs that wind their way to the top of the tower. However, the top of the tower is closed to the public since it is still a working lighthouse. The National Park Service operates a visitors center in the old keepers house.