Administrative Record for the Relocation of the Cape Hatteras Light Station, PC.5003


Administrative Record for the Relocation of the Cape Hatteras Light Station, PC.5003


Because of the threat of shoreline erosion, the Cape Hatteras Light Station, which consists of seven historic structures, was successfully relocated in 1999. The lighthouse was moved 2,900 feet from the spot on which it had stood since 1870. The entire light station was safely relocated to a new site where the historic buildings and cisterns were placed in relationship to each other exactly as they had been at the original site. The Administrative Record for the Relocation of Cape Hatteras Light Station, 1999, contains documents relating to a lawsuit concerning the relocation of the lighthouse. The materials in this collection are reproductions of documents originally dated July 1967-3 February 1999.

Descriptive Summary

Administrative Record for the Relocation of the Cape Hatteras Light Station
Call Number
United States. National Park Service
1.000 cubic feet
Outer Banks History Center

Series Quick Links

  1. Collection Contents

Restrictions on Access & Use

Access Restrictions

This collection is available for research.

Use Restrictions

Copyright is retained by the authors of these materials, or their descendants, as stipulated by the United States copyright law (Title 17 US Code). Individual researchers are responsible for using these materials in conformance with copyright law as well as any donor restrictions accompanying these materials.

Preferred Citation

PC.5003, Administrative Record for the Relocation of Cape Hatteras Light Station, 1999, Outer Banks History Center, Manteo, NC, U.S.A.

Collection Overview

This collection consists of reproductions of 317 documents related to a lawsuit concerning the relocation of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse arranged chronologically (the original documents are dated July 1967-3 February 1999). An index in the first folder describes the contents of each folder. These documents consist of environemental impact reports, alternatives to moving, cost estimates, opinions of the opposing Save the Lighthouse and Move the Lighthouse committees, archeological reviews, correspondence, and engineering memoranda.

Arrangement Note



When completed in 1870, the Cape Hatteras lighthouse was located a safe 1,500 feet from the ocean. Even then, however, storm-driven tides completely washed over Hatteras Island, eroding sand from the ocean side of the island and depositing it on the sound side. By 1970, this process, which has caused the gradual westward migration of the Outer Banks for at least the past 10,000 years, left the lighthouse just 120 feet from the ocean's edge and almost certain destruction.
In 1980, the National Park Service began planning, under the National Environmental Policy Act, for long-term protection. A three-year process that included public meetings yielded several alternatives. Relocation was considered but quickly discounted as impractical. The option finally selected was a concrete and steel seawall revetment that would have protected the lighthouse in place but would eventually have created an island as the coastline receded to the southwest. As moving technology advanced during the decade and additional information became available about relocation versus the approved seawall, the National Park Service examined the alternative that allowed it to accommodate natural processes while still preserving the historic structures of the light station.
In 1987, the NPS requested the assistance of the National Academy of Sciences, a group of scientists and engineers who advise the federal government on technical matters. The Academy's 1988 report, Saving Cape Hatteras Lighthouse from the Sea: Options and Policy Implications, considered ten options but recommended relocation as the most cost-effective method of protection. The National Park Service also considered this the best overall solution in that it would preserve the structures and accommodate the natural shoreline processes.
However, many people feared destruction of the brick lighthouse, the tallest in the United States. From 1988 to 1995, the relocation option was debated and discussed, with no funding requests made at the Congressional level or concerted fund-raising campaigns undertaken in the private sector. In 1996, North Carolina State University independently reviewed the National Academy of Sciences' report and then issued its own report, Saving the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse from the Sea, in January 1997. It not only endorsed the National Academy of Sciences' findings, but also recommended that "the National Park Service proceed as soon as possible with its present plans to obtain the financial resources necessary to preserve the lighthouse by moving it." NPS managers then initiated a concerted effort to begin the planning and funding process to move the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Funding was finally appropriated by Congress beginning in fiscal year 1998, and the lighthouse was successfully relocated in 1999.

Contents of the Collection

Collection Contents
Index, 1999
Box 1
Documents 1-3, July 1967-November 1974
Box 1
Documents 4-14, 19 December 1974-July 1982
Box 1
Documents 15-19, 1983-January 1984
Box 1
Documents 20-38, March 1984-29 December 1986
Box 1
Documents 39-83, 1987
Box 1
Documents 84-102, 15 May 1987-1988
Box 2
Documents 103-119, 1988
Box 2
Documents 120-149, 28 July 1988-11 February 1989
Box 2
Documents 150-180, 13 February 1989-7 December 1989
Box 2
Documents 181-220, 15 December 1989-16 December 1992
Box 2
Documents 221-265, 11 March 1993-January 1997
Box 2
Documents 266-289, 24 January 1998-14 April 1998
Box 3
Documents 290-317, 29 May 1998-3 February 1999
Box 3

Subject Headings

  • Cape Hatteras Lighthouse (N.C.)
  • Lighthouses--North Carolina--History--20th century
  • Lighthouses--Conservation and restoration--North Carolina
  • Moving of buildings, bridges, etc.--North Carolina--Hatteras, Cape
  • Acquisitions Information

    Donated by Steve Harrison on behalf of the National Park Service, Cape Hatteras Group, May, 1999.

    Processing Information

  • Processed by Tama Creef, December 2018.