The preceding Bodie Island lighthouses actually stood south of Oregon Inlet on Pea Island in an area now under water. The first was built in 1847 and then abandoned in 1859 due to a poor foundation. The second, built in 1859, was destroyed in 1861 by retreating Confederate troops who feared it would be used as a Union observation post during the Civil War. The third and current lighthouse, with its original first order Fresnel lens, was completed in 1872. In 1932, the light was upgraded to an electric lamp by using oil-fueled electrical generators. It remained manned until 1940, when the lighthouse was fully automated. In 1953, the generators were disconnected and power was supplied from the commercial electric grid.
While some people (including North Carolinians not from the Outer Banks) pronounce the name with a long "o" sound, it is traditionally pronounced as body. This is derived from the original name of the area, which was "Bodies Island", after the Body family from whom the land was purchased. Folklore would have you believe it is due to the number of dead sailors washed ashore from this portion of the Atlantic Ocean, which is known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic. Local gift shops sell maps of the shipwrecks on the ocean floor. An impressive array of ships have been sunk due to storms, shoals, and GermanU-boats in World War II. This lighthouse appears in the background of the 1963–1964 Federal Duck Stamp.
After years of raising funds and postponement, work to restore the cast iron and other parts in need of work began on the lighthouse in August 2009. As of March 2010, the outside scaffolding was 100% complete while interior scaffolding was 50% completed. The restoration was stopped in spring 2011 after significant new structural integrity issues were found in many of the main support beams under the balcony. The additional repairs needed were too costly to finish in the original restoration project. In August, 2011 Hurricane Irene blew out some of the newly restored lantern room glass and tore away a protective shroud covering the lantern room. Flooding caused buckling of the floors in the Bodie Island Light Station Double Keepers Quarters. Additional funding was obtained to continue the restoration, which was restarted in 2012 and completed in March 2013. There was a re-lighting ceremony on April 18, 2013, and the lighthouse was opened for the general public to climb the following day for a fee.
Historic light station information – North Carolina
Bodie Island Lighthouse:
1847 – The contractor on the first project was Mr. Francis Gibbons, of Baltimore, who would later become a prominent lighthouse builder on the West Coast. Cost was $5,000 but problems with location and design of the tower caused a ten year delay in construction. The tower was highly unstable and soon after it was completed, it began to lean toward the sea.
1859 – The Bodie Island Lighthouse had deteriorated and the Lighthouse Board secured a $25,000 appropriation from Congress to erect a new tower. This new tower was 80 ft (24 m). and its lantern was a third-order Fresnel lens.
1861 – In the fall of 1861, Confederate troops stacked explosives inside the tower and blew it apart.
1871 – A third lighthouse was completed in 1871 partially with material left over from construction of a new tower at Cape Hatteras. The tower was 156 ft (48 m). with a first order Fresnel lens that made its light visible for 18 nautical miles (33 km). The Bodie tower is painted with white and black horizontal bands.