Pipkin Family Association

Roanoke River Lighthouse


The Virginian-Pilot; May 24, 2007; North Carolina

Roanoke River Lighthouse, moved in the í50s, gets another new home
By Lauren King | The Virginian-Pilot

EDENTON [Chowan County, NC] ó The old lighthouse wobbled its way across a wooden plank road that creaked and cracked as it was pulled by a crane and towed by a tractor-trailer onto a barge near the mouth of Filbertís Creek early Wednesday. With each bump in the road, the front screen door opened and closed, and up top, old Christmas lights rattled against the beaconís 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 Filbertís Creek. "Letís 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 daylong process of moving the 1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse to Colonial Park at Edentonís downtown waterfront area, but it was an important start to the dayís 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.


Renovation plans include making the 1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse look as it did when it rested on pilings in the Albemarle Sound, as pictured above in a historical photo. 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 stateís inland waterways, said Peter Rascoe, Chowan Countyís 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 authorityís 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 arenít finalized, but the concept will include making the building a maritime center for the areaís abundant water activities, such as kayaking and canoeing.

Chris Curry/The Virginian-Pilot - The 1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse was moved to a barge near the mouth of Filbertís Creek on Wednesday in Edenton as part of the trip to its new home in Colonial Park.

Chris Curry/The Virginian-Pilot - It was a long, slow trip for the 1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse, which moved to a new location Wednesday. It made a similar journey from its original home in the Albemarle Sound in the 1950s. Luckily for those involved, a crane, barge and tractor-trailer were involved this time around.

Chris Curry/The Virginian-Pilot - It took about an hour, including frequent stops, to load the lighthouse onto the barge. The completion of the task Ė the first step of many Wednesday Ė was met with cheers and applause by onlookers.

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