Bald Head's original lighthose stood on the island's southwestern corner, where the Cape Fear River empties into the Atlantic Ocean. The State of North Carolina began constructing the original lighthouse by 1789, but the lighthouse remained unfinished under the state's responsibility. On August 7, 1789, the newly-established Federal government nationalized the county's lighthouses by an Act of Congress that President George Washington signed into law. After the nation's lighthouses were federalized, the United States government took responsibility for completing construction of the original Bald Head Lighthouse. The lighthouse was first lit around Christmas, 1794.
The original lighthouse was constructed of brick and stood over 99 feet tall. The bricks were pressed in Philadelphia and shipped to Bald Head Island. Compositionally, the lighthouse's octagonal walls stood on 20-foot tall, square pedestal. It was the nation's tallest lighthouse at the time. Atop the lighthouse was an iron lantern room forged by Samuel Wheeler in Philadelphia.
In 1813, the original lighthouse was deconstructed and its materials recycled to construct what we know as Old Badly Lighthouse today.