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Bald Head Island Lighthouse

Bald Head Island Lighthouse

Bald Head Island Lighthouse is currently North Carolina's oldest standing lighthouse. The lighthouse is also known as Old Baldy. This lighthouse helped mariners find Cape Fear River and Wilmington, North Carolina. The National Register of Historic Places added this landmark to its register in 1975. Since then, the Old Baldy Foundation has worked hard to keep this piece of North Carolina history.

A large, empty sand dune marked where the Cape River emptied into the Atlantic Ocean before Old Baldy. Mariners would use this area to navigate when looking for the Cape Fear River. When referring to a “head,” mariners mean a high point of a section of land. Mariners also used the term “bald” to describe the emptiness of the land. Hence the name Bald Head Island.

Bald Head Island Lighthouse History

The purpose of Old Baldy was to direct traffic to the Cape Fear River and Wilmington, North Carolina.  Wilmington was experiencing an increase in maritime traffic to its ports. As a result, the lighthouse debuted on December 23, 1794.

The federal government chose Abishai Woodward to build the Bald Head Lighthouse. Woodward imported almost 60,000 bricks and a wrought iron lantern to finish the project. These materials came from Philadephia, Pennsylvania.

Due to erosion of the west beach, the demolition of the original lighthouse took place in 1813. Three years later, Daniel Way won the bid to rebuild Bald Head Island Lighthouse. Under Way’s construction, Old Baldy had an octagonal shape. Way also combined recycled bricks with newly-pressed bricks to build the 110-foot walls. Those bricks had a covering of stucco to protect against the elements and erosion. On April 1, 1817, Old Baldy was complete.

The Old Baldy Foundation

Bald Head Island Lighthouse has a foundation called The Old Baldy Foundation. Photographs, artifacts, and more to preserve the history of the Smith Island Complex. The foundation has a collections committee that manages the collection. The Old Baldy Foundation’s Board of Directors chooses the members of the committee

The Old Baldy Foundation publishes this information online. People can check out newspaper clippings, pamphlets, correspondence, and photographs on Old Baldy.

For more information on the collection, contact McAllie Givens. You can reach her at 910-457-7481 or [email protected]

The Old Baldy Foundation Special Events & Programs

The Old Baldy Foundation hosts several special events and programs, including:

  • Islandwide History Tour - The Bald Head Island Historical Tour is a two-hour tour via a golf cart. A guide will drive across the island and share four hundred years of Bald Head Island history.
  • Civil War Walking Tour - The Bald Head Island Civil War Walking Tour is a one-hour hike through Fort Holmes. Fort Holmes was a Confederate fortification on Bald Head Island from 1863 - 1865. A trained guide will share Bald Head Island and Wilmington's role in the Civil War and show artifacts.
  • Lighthouse Learners Scholarship Program -  The foundation gives up to $800 to fourth-grade classrooms.
  • Memorial Brick Walkway - Remember friends and loved ones by buying a brick to place by Old Baldy's Oil House. These bricks will then be a part of the Memorial Walk and Garden.
  • History Hunters - Are you a fan of puzzles? Every Tuesday at 10 am, the organization hosts a weekly scavenger hunt, which expires on Friday at 4 pm. Participants can check the organization’s Facebook page to see if anyone has found the flag.
    Also, every Tuesday after Memorial Day, you will find a new puzzle on the organization’s website. When you complete the puzzle, you will get a clue on the location of a hidden prize.

How To Support The Old Baldy Foundation

There are several ways that people can support The Old Baldy Foundation:

  • Volunteer - There are several different ways people can volunteer with the organization:
  • Guide school field trips.
  • Get the word out about the foundation’s historical tours.
  • Take part in the development and hosting of fundraising events.
  • Donate - The Old Baldy Foundation always appreciates donations. These donations help the Foundation share the history of Bald Head Island Lighthouse. Donations are tax-deductible.
  • Sponsor - The Old Baldy Foundation hosts fundraising events all during the year. Sponsors help to continue that mission and preserve a piece of North Carolina’s history.
    If your business wants to sponsor, please reach out to [email protected] for more information.
  • Shop - Old Baldy Lighthouse & Smith Island Museum of History Gift Shop is open to the public. People can buy items to remind them of their trip and share the history of this North Carolina landmark. All proceeds go to the Old Baldy Foundation’s preservation of Old Baldy Lighthouse.
    You can find the shop at Bald Head Island Lighthouse. You can also find it online at https://oldbaldygiftshop.company.site/.

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