The first Ocracroke Lighthouse was built in 1803 on Shell Castle Island inside the Ocracoke Inlet not far from Blackbeard’s hideout. Destroyed by lightning in 1818 it was replaced. In 1822, the federal government purchased two acres on Ocracoke Island and commissioned Noah Porter to build a new lighthouse and keeper’s cottage. The lighthouse was to be coated with an unlikely formula of lime, salt, ground rice, whiting, and clear glue, which was mixed with boiling water and applied to the bricks while hot. Porter completed the project the next year, for $11,359, considerably less than the $20,000 the government had budgeted. The current lighthouse was completed in 1823. It stands 75 feet tall and its diameter narrows from 25 feet at the base to 12 feet at its peak. The walls are 5 foot thick brick at the bottom tapering to 2 feet at the top. An octagonal lantern crowns the tower and houses the light beacon. The lighthouse has a fourth order lens that is equal to 8,000 candlepower and casts a beam that can be seen for 14 miles. Ocracoke Light is the second oldest operating lighthouse in the nation. The lighthouse was automated in 1955. The Coast Guard now oversees the operation of the light. During the summer months visitors may access the base of the lighthouse. Access to the top of the lighthouse is not allowed due to the simple steel spiral staircase being safe only for maintenance activity but visitors can tour the grounds around the lighthouse and visit the keeper’s cottage. However, this is not the original staircase; the original staircase was a wooden step spiral built into the inside of the exterior wall. This was removed during the 1950's due to excessive rotting to the boards and a lacking necessity for a substantial staircase because of the automation of the light. The wooden stairs were removed and the holes in the all-brick lighthouse were cemented closed. Ocracoke, where the lighthouse is located, can only b reached by ferry: from the southern end of Hatteras Island, a free of charge state ferry carries cars and passengers to the island in about 30 minutes. Check for reservations at Outer Banks Ferry Information or call 1-800-BYFERRY1-800-BYFERRY.