People and Places with Pierce: The Roanoke River Lighthouse 1886

EDENTON, N.C. (WNCT) – “It catches your eye when you come to town, and people always just want to walk up,” said Robert Germain, a volunteer with the Historic Edenton Visitor Center.

A visit to Edenton isn’t complete without a stop along the water.

“The lighthouse that’s on the waterfront was originally built in 1886 out in the Roanoke River,” added Keith Furlough, an interpreter with the James Iredell Historic Site. “It was a beacon to ships coming through that river for many years.”

1rg. “It was active until 1941,” said Germain. “It was manned by a lightkeeper and an assistant lightkeeper who worked 3 weeks on and had a week off. One interesting thing I read was from excerpts of the diary of a young teenage girl whose father was a lightkeeper. She spent two weeks one summer with her father out at the light, and she wrote it was the most awful, boring 2 weeks of her life.”

“Sometimes I think they must have had nerves of steel just to be out there during a hurricane,” said Furlough. “After all, that did evidently survive hurricanes because it’s still intact.”

This lighthouse has weathered its fair share of storms over the years. It’s also managed to survive not 1 but 2 major moves in Edenton. As you might imagine, moving a structure this large and this old two times was quite the undertaking.

“It was just sitting out there weathering and a man from Edenton hoped to somehow acquire it,” said Furlough.

“In 1955, the Coast Guard wanted to get rid of three lighthouses like this,” said Germain. “They sold them all to a marine contractor for a total of 30 dollars, 10 dollars a piece Emmett Wiggins, who was a marine contractor here from Edenton went out there with a barge picked up the lighthouse off the pilings on the bow of the barge, brought it back over here, and put it ashore just about a half mile up the harbor at the mouth of Filberts Creek.”

“It was his house from the 1950’s until his death in 1995,” added Furlough.

But that wasn’t the end of the road for this historic structure.

“In 2007, they worked out a deal with his son and purchased the lighthouse, put it back on a barge, moved it down here to the park,” said Germain. “They refurbished it and then moved it out here to where you see it right now on pilings. It was opened as a museum in August 2012.”

Since then, thousands have gone inside for a step back in time; some taking full advantage of the view of Edenton Harbor from 11 feet up.

“We’ve had weddings on the porches,” said Furlough. “We use it for all kinds of activities. Anybody who wants to rent it for certain events, we do that.”

Whether you come to say “I Do” or just to enjoy the sunset, this lighthouse has just what you’re looking for.


Pierce is always looking for interesting and unique people and places to visit. If you have an idea, send him an email or a message on Facebook or Twitter.


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