ROANOKE RIVER LIGHT
Edenton, North Carolina
On Wednesday, May 23, 2007, the Roanoke River Lighthouse in Edenton, NC, was moved from the private property where it has sat, to Colonial Park in the Historic Downtown area.
The following story was written by Lauren King, of The
It is reprinted with permission.
With each bump in the road, the front screen door opened and closed, and up top, old Christmas lights rattled against the beacon's glass.
Paul Waff of Waff Contracting Inc. stayed low to the ground, keeping watch on the wooden planks placed below the tractor-trailer carrying the two-story structure across the sandy lot.
He gripped a radio in his right hand and called out directions to the truck driver and his crew members, staged around the lighthouse as it was backed closer to the barge.
They frequently stopped to reposition boards, redirect the truck or make safety checks. After about an hour, the barge was loaded. Applause erupted from bystanders on Pembroke Circle, a street across Filbert's Creek.
"Let's hear it for the truck driver," one woman yelled, eliciting more applause, cheers and hoots from the small crowd.
It was only one of the steps in the day long process of moving the 1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse to Colonial Park at Edenton's downtown waterfront area, but it was an important start to the day's work.
Waff and Worth Hare of Worth H. Hare & Son House Movers Inc. were working together to move what had been the home of Emmett Wiggins until his death in 1995.
Wiggins moved the lighthouse from its original perch on pilings in the Albemarle Sound at the mouth of the Roanoke River in Plymouth in the 1950s.
The World War II Navy engineer captain and underwater salvager
purchased the lighthouse from Elijah Tate, who had made previous unsuccessful attempts to move two other river lighthouses, according to an outline from the Chowan County Tourism Development Authority.
Wiggins sank an old U.S. Navy ship under the lighthouse, removed its pilings, then pumped out the water, lifting the ship to pick up the lighthouse, Waff said.
"He would have had to be careful with balance because the weight is all on one side," Waff said, while pointing to the lighthouse in a picture showing it atop the ship.
When Wiggins arrived back in Edenton, he called on the same two companies that moved the lighthouse Wednesday.
Worth Hare Sr. stood watch with Maurice Waff, while the next generations of their families did the same work the pair did in the 1950s with their families.
"It was a long time ago," Hare Sr. said. "All I remember was coming with my daddy and uncle and pulling it in."
Maurice Waff marveled at the sizeable equipment in use Wednesday. While a tractor-trailer backed up with the lighthouse stacked on top, a crane sitting on a barge pulled the structure on board.
"It was a hard job," Hare Sr. said.
"You had to use your hands," Maurice Waff added.
The 1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse could be the last surviving light of the 20 that once dotted the state's inland waterways, said Peter Rascoe, Chowan County's special projects coordinator. The town of Edenton also owns the 1888 Fresnel Lens originally located in the lighthouse.
Rascoe said the approximately 300-pound lens was removed before Wednesday, but it will be returned to the beacon when the structure is renovated in coming years.
The lighthouse was abandoned by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1940, according to the tourism development authority's outline, and was vacant for about 15 years.
Renovation plans include making the lighthouse look as it did when it rested on pilings in the Albemarle Sound.
Nancy Nicholls, tourism director, said the plans aren't finalized, but the concept will include making the building a maritime center for the area's abundant water activities, such as kayaking and canoeing.
Reach Lauren King at (252) 338-2413 or email@example.com.
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