The present lighthouse was completed in 1859. In 1873 the lighthouse was painted in its distinctive black and white diagonal checkerboard pattern. It is the only lighthouse known to have this pattern.
The lighthouse is also unique because the diamond pattern indicates compass direction. When the sailors saw a black lighthouse with a white diamond pattern, that meant the ship was sailing east or west. However, when the sailors saw a white lighthouse with a black diamond, that meant the ship was sailing south or north.
This tower, the second lighthouse built near Cape Lookout, has stood in this spot for over 150 years. The lighthouse area is accessible all year and the tower itself is opened for self-guided climbing tours seasonally.