Roanoke River Lighthouse Edenton, North Carolina

Roanoke River Lighthouse Edenton, NC


Take a glimpse into the life of a lighthouse keeper’s family in the late 19th century! You can help create a special opportunity for everyone to learn by helping furnish the 1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse. Review the following list of furnishings, which have been deemed appropriate by the Curator of North Carolina State Historic Sites & Properties, or print a copy; then, contact us if you are willing to provide an item or items to be placed on display when the restoration is completed and the lighthouse is open to the public in 2014.

Entry Hall

The entry hall is a small area (7' x 12'4") that contains the stairway to the second floor of the lighthouse. It opens directly into the parlor and kitchen. There should be hooks on the wall for hats and coats such as waterproof jackets. A couple of pairs of rubber rain boots and work shoes would be appropriate, placed on the floor below the coats. A few fishing rods and tackle can be placed leaning in one corner of this area. A couple of lanterns would also be fitting. A fire bucket full of sand could be included as well as a historically accurate fire extinguisher if one can be obtained.


The office is small (7'6" x 7'8") and would have had minimal furniture. There was undoubtedly a desk and office chair as well as a desk or oil lamp. A small hanging book shelf would have held account books and journals necessary for the keeper’s work. Following is a list of objects that most likely have been in the office:

  • blank forms
  • envelopes
  • stationery
  • pens and pencils
  • record books
  • expense book
  • ink, pens, inkstand
  • watch book
  • general account book
  • journal
  • a letter box
  • waste basket


The parlor was a good-sized room (11'3" x 15'4") with windows that let in a good amount of natural light. The windows were probably left uncovered but may have had screened panels that were put in place during warm weather. One or two small rugs were probably on the floor. The parlor most likely had two large rocking chairs, with a small library table next to them. The table could have had an oil reading lamp or perhaps a double student lamp on it, with a few books stacked next to the lamp — the books having a variety of subjects from technical topics relevant to lighthouses to adventure tales and a magazine or two on fishing, boating or outdoor adventures. The parlor probably had a few side chairs around the room, with a bookcase in a corner, with books for enjoyment, a medical book, a dictionary and a Bible (the Lighthouse Board furnished Library Boxes to the keepers to provide reading material in their leisure time). Musical instruments, such as a banjo, a guitar, a mandolin, a fiddle, and a harmonica could have been in the room. Playing cards and a chess set or checkers game could have been on the table. On the walls there may have been pictures of ships or a poster showing types of water craft. There might have been maps of the area and pictures of local kinds of birds or fish. Other objects that can be added to the room are:

  • pipes, tobacco canister
  • telescope
  • flower pots with plants
  • small family pictures


The Roanoke River Lighthouse had two bedrooms. The west bedroom (11'6" x 15'6") would have been the keeper's room. The east bedroom (11'5" x 15'3") probably belonged to the assistant keeper. The bedrooms would have been decorated minimally especially to twenty-first century eyes. The windows would probably have had roller shades and perhaps lightweight curtains, pulled back to each side and held with fabric strips. There may have been screened panels that were placed in the open lower sashes during the summer months. The floors were bare but there would have been at least a small rug next to each bed.

The rooms contained a single bed, a small dresser, a wash stand with a mirror hanging above it and a side chair against one of the walls. The bed was probably a metal bed with a thin mattress filled with thin cotton batting and covered in striped cotton ticking. The bed would have been made up with white cotton sheets and pillowcase on the one pillow (If it is possible to obtain a U.S. Light House Service issue blanket it would be an excellent addition to the room). A small trunk would have been at the foot of the bed or somewhere in the room.

Both bedrooms most likely had a row of hooks along one wall for work clothing such as flannel, denim and cotton shirts and denim overalls. Uniforms were required by the U.S. Lighthouse Service in the 1880s. These consisted of a cap, vest, coat and trousers made of dark blue jersey or flannel. The coat was double-breasted with two rows of five yellow metal buttons, one row on each side. The cap had a yellow metal Lighthouse Service badge in the center above the visor. The light keeper would have lined up one or two pairs of leather high-top lace-up shoes and work boots under the row of hooks

On the wash stand there would have been a pitcher and basin for washing. Other toilet items placed there would have included straight razors, razor strop, shaving soap and mugs and toothbrushes, toothpaste, toothpowder, a comb and brush as well as a perhaps a mustache comb. Other items that would be appropriate in the room are:

  • Hats, gloves
  • Pocket knife
  • Sewing box/basket


The kitchen (11'6" x 15'3") had room for a table and chairs, a coal fired cook stove, at least one cupboard, and there were probably some wall-mounted shelves for supplies. From 1886 to a few years into the twentieth century, there were no refrigerators, but more than likely an ice chest would have been used in the lighthouse. Beyond the normal period kitchen utensils you would expect, other items that could have been in the kitchen:

  • linen dish towels
  • bucket of sand for fire extinguishing
  • Dutch oven
  • waffle iron
  • cast iron skillet
  • white heavy china

Your Help Is Greatly Needed

If you don’t have any of these furnishings but would still like to help in our effort, you can make a tax-deductible donation online by clicking this button:

or by mailing a check to this address:

Edenton Historical Commission
c/o Lighthouse Fund
505 South Broad Street
Edenton, NC 27932