Buxton, N.C. — The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse finished its journey Friday just before 1:30 p.m. when it was pushed into place over its new foundation. The last leg of the trip started just before noon.
Mike Landon drove the lighthouse for the last four inches. Landon, a North Carolina native, has worked for Expert House Movers for 22 years. The movers thought he should have the honor of helping the lighthouse complete its journey.
For some, watching the final move of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was like seeing a child take his first steps.
First, there was excitement.
"It's wonderful. It's just wonderful. This is fantastic. They've done a beautiful job," tourist Anne Sautter said.
Then, there was anticipation.
"We're not there yet, but it's feeling better," said one worker during the final phase of the move.
Finally, as the lighthouse pushed past the stop sign marking the end of the journey, there was euphoria.
"That's it baby. That's it. It looks good. All right," mover Jim Matyiko said.
The National Park Service even added humor to the moment by giving the movers tickets for running a stop sign and speeding.
The significance of the event was not lost on anyone.
"This is the grandaddy of all lighthouses, and I just hope that my grandchildren as well as the people here on Hatteras Island will enjoy something that we helped save," said Matyiko.
The beacon stopped just short of its new foundation around 8 p.m. Wednesday, almost a week ahead of schedule.
The lighthouse had been moving at a rate of almost three feet per minute, and it only took about three weeks to move 2,900 feet.
Everyday, thousands of people crowd to see the lighthouse move along rails, powered by hydraulics. The technology is not new, but the application has amazed visitors who have watched the historic relocation.
"You have the opportunity to see something that normally doesn't move in my lifetime, or yours," one visitor said.
"It's an incredible human endeavor. I'm just amazed that we were able to get it this far, and not one crack," said another.
Now, workers will lay 140,000 bricks around the base. New roads will also have to be paved before the lighthouse can be opened to the public again. It is not expected to open to the public until Memorial Day 2000.
The goal is to turn the light on by Labor Day 1999.