“Rust doesn’t have strength, but just being there, it can still hold things together,” Neal said. Find more historic fire lookout towers to climb in the NC mountains.
The 37-year-old New Bern, North Carolina, lawyer was in the process of boarding The Frying Pan Tower, a Coast-Guard-Light-House-turned-B&B 34 …
This far from the security of having ground beneath your feet, Neal knows there are certain sacrifices people would have to make to venture out to the tower. He’s also organizing more trips for local Boy Scouts and wants to become a research destination for University of North Carolina Wilmington Marine Science students. Luckily, a trip to the towers comes with the rare amenity of no mosquitos, ants or bugs out in the ocean, so the bug spray can stay at home. It is the tallest USFS lookout tower in Western North Carolina, and it is now on the National Register of Historic Places. LISTEN NOW: Learn more about Frying Pan Tower in the latest episode of the Cape Fear Unearthed local history podcast, recorded live on deck of the tower! Although it is almost inescapable, it’s not necessarily the enemy. But the volunteers aren't all work and no play. A camera on the tower's helipad, some 85 feet above the ocean, is sending live video as the storm approaches.
The first offer came a year after he bought it, when a multi-millionaire said he would double Neal's investment to take it off his hands. While on deck, they are fed all they want from a fully stocked pantry, given a working shower and bathroom, access to good internet and their own bedroom – each named after North Carolina lighthouses like Bald Head, Oak Island and Hatteras. Still, he's already planning another trip next summer to give his daughters even more adventures from the other side of the camera.
He is not riding out the storm in the tower, but did fly out there by helicopter on Wednesday to repair the live feed. A clear-your-mind kind of pace. The views are better than from atop Mt. Neal, whose daily job is in computer consulting, is incredibly active on Facebook, touting the virtues of the tower to the thousands of followers fascinated by his days at sea. Richard Neal bought the abandoned tower in 2010 and is renovating the structure. It’s wrapped around the steel legs and even under the chipped paint on the walls. Whether they are electricians, welders, painters or even a troop of resourceful Boy Scouts, he’s recruited all of them to lend a hand to whatever may be the week’s project – and there are a lot of them. Then, in 5 or 6 years, he would sell it for a few million dollars.”. A deck house, faded by nearly six decades of direct sunshine, sits atop them and comfortably sleeps 12 with a full kitchen and living space – functions it first served for Coast Guardsman, then the guests of a bed and breakfast, and now restoration volunteers. A novice to the needs of a former light station and weather tower when he first bought it, Neal got an assist from NASA, which sent engineers out to the tower to assess what work was needed – a laundry list of things he’s only added to over the years. Volunteers like these wait months and sometimes years to get called up to duty on the tower. An extended stay on Frying Pan isn't for everyone though. It’s been a decade since Neal bought the tower in an auction with the government for $85,000, a figure many might consider a steal. The Frying Pan Tower is a privately owned surplus Coast Guard Light Station located 34 miles off the coast of North Carolina that is being restored with the assistance of people like you and has been turned into a unique volunteer and research destination.
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