Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Mistake?

Have you ever noticed that the top of the Ocracoke lighthouse is off-center?

Look carefully at the photo below (you can enlarge it by following the directions on the right). The lantern room is lopsided. The asymmetrical top of the lighthouse is most noticeable viewed from Pamlico Sound.

Some people think the architect/builder, Noah Porter, made a mistake, but I believe the top's offset was intentional, positioned to allow easy access via trapdoor from the spiral staircase into the area of the lantern room between the outer wall and the central Fresnel lens.

Be sure to look carefully at the lighthouse the next time you approach Ocracoke from Pamlico Sound.

Out latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a reprint of a 1948 article about the Mail Boat Aleta, "Boat Hauls Mail, More." You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous8:36 AM

    Thank you for pointing that out to us. Please dish about the cute cottage also in the picture to the right. Also the other structure picture to the left peeking out from the windswept vegetation the color on the shingles is it a popular hue? Also, how many paint stores are there on the island? Do locals buy paint at the hardware store or are there professional retailers specializing in the perfect color for house and home?

    1. I have written about the "cute cottage" in the photo several times. Here are the links:,, and

      The Variety Store carries a limited selection of paint, mostly white + gray deck paint, and boat bottom paint, as well as cans of spray paint. For other house colors we have to go off island.

  2. Anonymous11:09 AM

    As the late comedian Gilda Radner famously said, in the guise of her character Roseanne Rosannadanna, "It's always something!"

    Leave it to you to point out YET ANOTHER Ocra-fact that's escaped even us seasoned-veteran visitors, Philip.

    Will definitely have to take a closer look next time we're on the island.

    As always--thanks!


  3. Anonymous11:49 AM

    Oh good grief. i suppose if it were not raining outside I would not have engaged in an internet Image search of the lighthouse on your island. so many images, so many angles, it appears so different in so many -- where is it documented that in fact your claims are so? Thanks.

    1. Just look at the photo. You can see that the lantern room is off-center. Why it is off-center is another question. But I do know that you enter the lantern room through a trap door in the floor.

  4. Anonymous12:01 PM

    Thank You for being there when we can't.Its like the old ketchup commerical!ANTICIPATION! Debby & Nick

  5. Rick Edwards12:41 PM

    I have noticed that many times from different vantage points o n the island. (Funny, its usually while sipping a cold beverage). I always assumed it was because of the stairway and allowing access to the Lightroom.

  6. Anonymous5:56 PM

    Old Baldie light house is the same way but MORE offset and NO railing. lighthouses were usually built and capped on top. The door to the lantern house then cut into the cap. Acccording to the lighthouse society sometimes they were offset to take advantage of a solid wall structure under the lantern. It looks ot me like being in the center of all the walls would balance the load. I am no engineer but I guess they thought that having the lantern house attached solid to one wall was better than being in the center. Anyway I FOUND THIS INFO ON THE INTERNET so you can believe it or take it with a grain of sea salt.

  7. Anonymous6:25 PM

    Where did the name Pamlico come from and please, how is it pronounced. Thank you.

    1. I have never researched the origin of the word Pamlico, but it must be American Indian. There are variations of the name on early maps. I will dedicate a blog to this question sometime soon.

      I am no linguist, so I'm not sure how to represent the pronunciation, but this would be close: PAM-li-ko, or PAM-lee-ko, both with a long "o."

  8. Anonymous11:52 PM

    Perfections or intentional imperfections...NC Mainlander just loves O.I. lighthouse. Enjoyable!

  9. OcracokeFan10:02 AM

    I noticed the "imperfection" of the lighthouse years ago when I bought a tiny model of the beacon. However, it wasn't until years later, after reading a book, that I noticed that the sides of the lighthouse are also on two distinct angles. I don't really know how to express that, but one side of the lighthouse is a steeper angle than the other. I think that is very obvious from certain angles, even the above photo.

    Philip, thanks for sharing your life with us!

  10. Anonymous11:26 AM

    As with Bald Head Light, you can see those folks hoisting the lantern up the tower & saying "It's here!" Apparently, there was no one on the ground saying, or folks on top of the tower did hear, "Move it over a bit!"

    As for the lantern on Bald Head being off-centered, it came from the original tower that had to be taken apart due to beach erosion.