Lighthouses of the United States: Virginia

The U.S. state of Virginia includes the southern half of the Chesapeake Bay and the wide estuaries of the Rappahannock, York and James Rivers that empty into the bay. Hampton Roads, at the mouth of the James, is one the largest U.S. harbors and the home port of the U.S. Navy's Atlantic Fleet. East of the Chesapeake, Virginia also includes the southernmost portion of the Delmarva Peninsula, known to Virginians as the Eastern Shore.

The nation's second-tallest lighthouse is in Virginia, and there are three towers surviving from the early Federal period. Unfortunately, Virginia has lost all of the cottage screwpile lighthouses that formerly guided mariners on the Chesapeake Bay and the three major estuaries. Two replicas have been built to remind us of these lights. Local lighthouse preservation efforts were weak in the past, but they have strengthened in recent years.

Navigational aids in the United States are operated by the U.S. Coast Guard, but ownership (and sometimes operation) of historic lighthouses has been transferred to local authorities and preservation organizations in many cases. Virginia lights are the responsibility of the Coast Guard's Fifth District.

ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS World List of Lights. Admiralty numbers are from volume J of the Admiralty List of Lights & Fog Signals, and USCG numbers are from Vol. II of the U.S. Coast Guard Light List.

General Sources
Chesapeake Chapter of the U.S. Lighthouse Society
The society works for the preservation of lighthouses throughout Virginia and Maryland; its web site includes a Lighthouse Heritage section with information on the lighthouses.
Lighthouses of Virginia
Outstanding photos, directions, and historical accounts by Kraig Anderson.
Online List of Lights - U.S. East Coast
Photos by various photographers posted by Alex Trabas.
Lighthouses in Virginia, United States
Aerial photos posted by Marinas.com.
Chesapeake Bay Lighthouse Project
This site by Matthew Jenkins has excellent photos and brief accounts of the lighthouses.
Demolished Screwpile Lighthouses in the Chesapeake
This discussion on a Harbour Lights forum has several rare photos of surviving screwpile platforms.
Coast Guard Lighthouses - Virginia
Historic photos with notes contributed by Chesapeake Chapter volunteers.
Lighthouses in Virginia
Photos available from Wikimedia.
National Maritime Inventory - Virginia
National Park Service inventory of Virginia lighthouse data.
Chesapeake Bay Lighthouses
Photos and short accounts posted by the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network.
Leuchttürme USA auf historischen Postkarten
Historic postcard images posted by Klaus Huelse.

Assateague Light
Assateague Light, Chincoteague, July 2013
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Paulo Ordoveza

Eastern Shore Lighthouses

Note: The two counties of Virginia's Eastern Shore occupy the southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula, which separates Chesapeake Bay from the Atlantic Ocean. The region was quite remote formerly, but since 1964 the Eastern Shore has been connected to the rest of the state by the 23 mile (37 km) long Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel (US 13).
Accomack County Oceanside Lighthouse
*** Assateague (2)
1867 (station established 1833). Active; focal plane 154 ft (47 m); 2 white flashes every 5 s. 142 ft (43 m) "early classic" round brick tower with lantern and gallery, DCB-236 aerobeacon (1961). Tower painted with red and white horizontal bands; lantern roof is black. The original 1st order Fresnel lens (restored during 2000-01) is on display at the Museum of Chincoteague Island in Chincoteague. The 2-story concrete keeper's house (1910) now houses wildlife refuge seasonal staff. The oil house (1891) also survives. Paulo Ordoveza's photo is at the top of this page, Anderson has a good page for the lighthouse, C.M. Hanchey has a 2008 photo, Wikimedia has photos, Trabas has a photo by Brown Trout Publishing, and Google has a satellite view. In 2004, ownership of the light station was transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Chincoteague Natural History Association helps to maintain the lighthouse and provide public access; the association has a page for the lighthouse. The refuge visitor center, nearby, serves as an information center for the lighthouse. In June 2006, a section of the cast iron gallery fell, and the lighthouse was closed for the rest of the season. It reopened for 2007. Recent photos, such as this April 2012 photo, show the lighthouse to be in desperate need of repainting. However, a $1.5 million restoration project began in the spring of 2009. Work is being done in phases as funds become available; during 2010 International Chimney Corporation restored the lower gallery deck and portions of the lantern room. Work was completed in the summer of 2013 and included repainting the tower. Located near the road from Chincoteague to the Assateague Island beach, accessible by a short walk. Site open (refuge entry fee), tower open daily June through September and Friday through Sunday in April, May, October, and November. Owner: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge). Site manager: Chincoteague Natural History Association. ARLHS USA-021; Admiralty J1364; USCG 2-0275.

Northampton County Lighthouses
[Cape Charles (2)]
1864 (station established 1828). Inactive since 1895. This 150 ft (46 m) "early classic" brick tower collapsed into the sea in 1927. Rubble is visible in the surf. Located on uninhabited Smith Island, just north of the cape. Accessible only by boat. Site closed. Owner/site manager: Virginia Nature Conservancy (Virginia Coast Reserve). ARLHS USA-1059.
Cape Charles (3)
1895 (station established 1828). Active; focal plane 180 ft (55 m); white flash every 5 s, day and night. 191 ft (58 m) octagonal pyramidal cast iron skeletal tower with central cylinder, lantern and gallery, solar-powered 190 mm lens. The original 1st order Fresnel lens is on display at the Mariner's Museum in Newport News. Tower painted white; the lantern and watch room are painted black. Sadly, the original 2-1/2 story shingle-style keeper's house was destroyed by a brush fire in July 2000. The brick coal house and brick generator building survive. C.W. Bash's distant view is at right, Trabas has a good photo, Jim Harrison has a distant view, another distant view is available, and Bing has a good satellite view. This little-known and rarely-visited tower is the second tallest U.S. lighthouse. Five lighthouses of this class were built, and two others survive, at Rawley Point, Wisconsin, and Hillsboro Inlet, Florida. The Coast Guard carried out a structural restoration of the tower in fall 2000. Located on uninhabited Smith Island, just north of the cape. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed. Owner: U.S. Coast Guard. Site manager: Virginia Nature Conservancy (Virginia Coast Reserve). ARLHS USA-109; Admiralty J1404; USCG 2-0350.
Cape Charles Light
Cape Charles Light, Smith Island, September 2013
Flickr Creative Commons photo by C.W. Bash
* Old Plantation Flats (replica)
2004 replica of 1886 lighthouse. Active (privately maintained and unofficial). 1-story square wood keeper's cottage with lantern and gallery centered on the roof. A reproduction of the original 4th order Fresnel lens is in use. 1942 fog bell (from a bell buoy). Ron Wrucke's photo is at right, and Bing has a satellite view. This lighthouse was built by a resort developer after very careful research; it is considered to be a faithful reproduction. The Coast Guard has a historic photo of the original lighthouse, which was deactivated and demolished in 1962. The replica was constructed in an artificial pond just off the beach and adjacent to a golf course on Old Plantation Creek, about 2 miles (3.2 km) from the original location. In early 2014, settlement of a complicated lawsuit between the developers and Paul Galloway put the lighthouse in Galloway's ownership. In May, Galloway put the lighthouse and 22 lots in the development up for auction sale. Located in the Bay Creek Resort off VA 184 near the town of Cape Charles. Site status unknown (the neighborhood is gated). Owner/site manager: private.
Rappahannock Shoal Channel South Range Rear
1991. Active; focal plane 220 ft (67 m); continuous white light, day and night. 224 ft (68 m) hexagonal steel skeletal tower mounted on a caisson. The tower also carries a passing light (white flash every 6 s) at a focal plane of 33 ft (10 m). Trabas has a closeup photo, Phil Payette has a photo, and Google has a good satellite view. Although this tower may not fit the traditional idea of a lighthouse, it is the second tallest aid to navigation in the U.S., after the Perry Monument in Lake Erie. This is a southbound range. Located about 0.3 mi (500 m) offshore of Silver Beach, southwest of Jamesville. Accessible only by boat. There's a good view from the beach off the end of secondary route 613 (extension of VA 183). Owner/site manager: U.S. Coast Guard. ARLHS USA-1060; Admiralty J1702.91; USCG 2-7295.
Old Plantation Flats Light
Old Plantation Flats Light replica, Cape Charles, September 2007
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Ron Wrucke
Rappahannock Shoal Channel South Range Front
1991. Active; focal plane 34 ft (10.5 m); continuous white light, day and night. 36 ft (11 m) steel monopole supporting a square platform with a 1-story equipment building. Building painted white. The tower also carries a passing light (white flash every 6 s). Trabas has a distant photo. Located 4.15 mi (6.67 km) northwest of the front light. Accessible only by boat. Owner/site manager: U.S. Coast Guard. Admiralty J1702.9; USCG 2-7290.

Accomack County Bayside Lighthouse
Tangier Sound
1890. Active; focal plane 45 ft (13.5 m); white flash every 6 s (red sector covers dangerous shoal). The lighthouse, a square cottage screwpile, was demolished in 1961. The modern light is a white square tower built on the original foundation. A distant view (1/4 the way down the page) and a second view (second photo on the page) are available. The Coast Guard has a historic photo of the lighthouse. Located in the Chesapeake Bay southeast of Tangier Island. Accessible only by boat. Owner/site manager: U.S. Coast Guard. ARLHS USA-834; USCG 2-7435.

Northern Virginia Lighthouse

Alexandria City Lighthouse
* Jones Point
1856. Inactive since 1926; a decorative light is displayed. Approx. 20 ft (6 m) 1-1/2 story frame keeper's house with a small lantern on the roof, 155 mm lens. Lighthouse painted white; lantern is gray. The keeper's house remained in use until 1934; it is completely empty today. A 2013 photo is at right, Anderson has a fine page for the lighthouse, Wikipedia has a page with several photos, C.W. Bash has a 2004 photo, and Google has a good satellite view and a distant street view. This is a very unusual small river light; there is nothing else like it in the U.S. After it was deactivated, the lighthouse was donated to the Daughters of the American Revolution, who maintained it for years with a caretaker living in the house. Much later, the D.A.R. returned the property to the National Park Service, but since 1986 the D.A.R.'s Mount Vernon Chapter has had a management agreement for the lighthouse. The lighthouse was renovated and relit in 1995 with funds raised by the chapter. In 2000 architects and archaeologists studied the site as part of the preparations for replacing the nearby Woodrow Wilson Bridge (I-95). In September 2003, flooding by Hurricane Isabel damaged the steps and lower portion of the lighthouse. Anderson reports that the lighthouse has been vandalized repeatedly, a problem likely to continue unless a permanent caretaker can be provided again. In 2010, plans were announced for a major renovation of Jones Point Park, including restoration of the lighthouse. In January 2012, the park service announced that restoration of the lighthouse was complete. The Mount Vernon Bicycle Trail passes the site. Located by the Potomac River in Jones Point Park on the southern edge of Alexandria. Site open daily, lighthouse closed except for occasional events. Owner: U.S. National Park Service (George Washington Memorial Parkway). Site manager: Mount Vernon Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution. ARLHS USA-409.
Jones Point Light
Jones Point Light, Alexandria, February 2013
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Mr T in DC

Northern Neck Lighthouses

Note: Virginia's Northern Neck is the peninsula between the Potomac and Rappahannock River estuaries. Because the Maryland-Virginia border is drawn along the Virginia shore, lighthouses of the Potomac River are all in Maryland.
Northumberland County Lighthouses
Smith Point (2)
1897 (station established 1868). Active; focal plane 52 ft (16 m); white flash every 10 s (red sector covers a dangerous shoal). 2-1/2 story octagonal brick keeper's house, mounted on an iron caisson, surmounted by a short square tower with lantern and gallery; DCB-24 aerobeacon. Lighthouse painted white, lantern black. Fog horn (2 s blast every 15 s) operates continuously. Craig Bruce's photo is at right, Robert English has a closeup photo, David Stapleford has a photo, and the Coast Guard has a historic photo. This lighthouse replaced an 1868 screwpile lighthouse destroyed by ice in 1895. Sibling of Wolf Trap Light (see below). The lighthouse was repaired by the Coast Guard in 1991. In 2003-04 the lighthouse was offered for transfer under NHLPA, but there were no applications. In October 2005 the lighthouse was sold on eBay for $170,000 to Dave and Teri McNally of Winona, Minnesota. The McNallys intended to use the lighthouse as a vacation home. After investing in substantial renovations, the McNallys put the lighthouse up for sale in March 2012, asking $499,999. (They also established a web page for the lighthouse, with many photos.) The lighthouse was still for sale as of November 2014. Located in the Chesapeake off the mouth of the Potomac. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed. Owner/site manager: U.S. Coast Guard. ARLHS USA-764; Admiralty J1790; USCG 2-7480.
Great Wicomico River (2)
1889. Active; focal plane 42 ft (13 m); white flash every 6 s (2 red sectors cover shoals). The lighthouse, a hexagonal cottage screwpile, was demolished in 1967. Trabas has a photo, another photo (almost halfway down the page) is available, and the Coast Guard has a historic photo. The current light is a steel skeletal tower built on the original screwpile foundation. Located in the Chesapeake Bay southeast of Fleeton, off the mouth of the river. Owner/site manager: U.S. Coast Guard. ARLHS USA-351; Admiralty J1772; USCG 2-7475.

Smith Point Light, Potomac River entrance, July 2004
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Craig Bruce

Middle Peninsula Lighthouses

Note: Virginia's Middle Peninsula is the peninsula between the Rappahannock and York River estuaries.
Middlesex County Lighthouse
*** Stingray Point (replica)
2003 (replica of the 1858 lighthouse). Inactive. 1-story hexagonal wood keeper's cottage with lantern centered on the roof. 5th order drum-style Fresnel lens (origin unknown). Ashton Christie has a fine 2008 photo, Lighthouse Digest has Jeremy D'Entremont's article on the building of the lighthouse, and Google has a satellite view. The Coast Guard has a historic photo of the original lighthouse, which was demolished after being deactivated in 1965. The lighthouse is a museum and also serves as the office of the Stingray Point Marina in Deltaville. A fog bell and a bell striking mechanism are on display. This is an accurate replica, built from the original plans by marina owners Brent Halsey and Jimmy Rogers. Located off VA 33 in Deltaville, 1.6 miles (2.5 km) west of the original site in the Bay. Site and lighthouse open daily, whenever the marina office is staffed. Owner/site manager: Stingray Point Marina.

Mathews County Lighthouses
Wolf Trap (2)
1894 (station established 1870). Active; focal plane 52 ft (16 m); white flash every 15 s. 2-1/2 story octagonal red brick keeper's house, mounted on an iron caisson, surmounted by a short square tower with lantern and gallery; solar-powered VRB-25 aerobeacon. Lighthouse painted fire-engine red, lantern black. Nick Korstad's photo is at right, Anderson has an excellent page for the lighthouse, Trabas has a closeup, a 2009 photo is available, and the Coast Guard has a historic photo. This lighthouse replaced an 1870 screwpile lighthouse destroyed by ice in 1892. In 2003-04 the lighthouse was offered for transfer under NHLPA, but there were no applications, and in October 2005 the lighthouse was sold at auction for $75,000 to Nick Korstad of North Plains, Oregon. In early 2006, Korstad sold the lighthouse for $115,000 to James H. Southard, Jr. of Charleston, South Carolina. In 2007, Southard replaced the roof of the lighthouse. In 2012, the lighthouse was once again on the market. Located on a dangerous shoal in the Chesapeake south of the mouth of the Rappahannock. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed. Owner/site manager: U.S. Coast Guard. ARLHS USA-903; Admiralty J1618; USCG 2-7255.
New Point Comfort
1806 (Elzy Burroughs). Reactivated (inactive 1963-1999, now privately maintained and unofficial). 58 ft (17.5 m) early Federal octagonal sandstone tower with lantern and gallery. Sibling of Old Point Comfort (a different site, about 30 miles (50 km) to the south). Lighthouse painted white, lantern black. Keeper's quarters destroyed. A photo is at right, Anderson has an excellent page for the lighthouse, the Coast Guard has a good historic photo of the light station, and Google has a satellite view. Endangered: located on a very small, eroding island in the Chesapeake. The tower was renovated in 1988, severely vandalized in 1994, then repaired and relit on 12 December 1999. The lighthouse is moldy from being long closed and the cast iron is badly corroded. Lighthouse Digest Doomsday List. A local group called the New Point Comfort Lighthouse Preservation Task Force was formed to work toward a complete restoration of the structure; there is also a foundation seeking donations. In 2002, the Virginia General Assembly budgeted $56,742 to develop a master plan for saving the lighthouse and opening it to the public. In 2003 the Army Corps of Engineers agreed to include a study of protecting the structure as part of a larger study of erosion problems on the Chesapeake. In 2004 the county constructed a pier to provide access to the lighthouse. In 2007, the preservation group announced a $750,000 plan to place a wall of granite boulders around the lighthouse. In June 2009, the county applied for permits to construct the wall, and in July 2010 a $424,000 grant from federal transportation funds supposedly completed funding for the project. Construction was scheduled then for 2011, but as of mid 2012 it has not begun. Bay Trails Outfitters in Onemo offers kayak tours to the lighthouse, and camping is available nearby. Accessible only by boat; no landing facilities available. There's a good view from the observation platform at the Virginia Nature Conservancy's New Point Comfort Preserve, located at the end of secondary route 600, off VA 14 south of Bavon. Site open, tower closed. Owner/site manager: Mathews County. ARLHS USA-543.

Gloucester County Lighthouse
Pages Rock (2)
1967 (station established 1893). Inactive. The lighthouse, a hexagonal cottage screwpile, was demolished in 1967. The replacement light, on a steel skeletal tower built on the original screwpile foundation, has been deactivated and replaced by a daybeacon. No current photo available, but Google has a good satellite view. The Coast Guard has a historic photo. Located in the Yourk River off Blundering Point on the northeast side of the estuary, about 5 miles (8 km) north of Yorktown. Accessible only by boat. Owner/site manager: U.S. Coast Guard. ARLHS USA-577; USCG 2-13875.


Wolf Trap Light, Chesapeake Bay, 2005
photo copyright Nick Korstad; used by permission

New Point Comfort Light
New Point Comfort Light, Bavon, July 2009
Panoramio photo copyright E7MBishop; permission requested


King and Queen County Lighthouse
Bells Rock (2?)
Date unknown (station established 1881). Active; focal plane 40 ft (12 m); white flash every 4 s (with a large red sector covering shoals). The lighthouse, a hexagonal cottage screwpile, was demolished in 1928. The current light is a steel skeletal tower built on the original screwpile foundation. No current photo available, but Google has a good satellite view. Coast Guard has a historic photo of the original lighthouse. Located near the center of the river about 3 miles (5 km) southeast of West Point. Visible from the end of secondary route 666 at Belleview on the east side of the river. Owner/site manager: U.S. Coast Guard. ARLHS USA-051; USCG 2-13995.

Central Virginia (Richmond Area) Lighthouses

Chesterfield County Lighthouse
[Dutch Gap Canal]
1875. Inactive since 1910. Foundations and brick chimney of an 1890 keeper's cottage remain. Trees hide the location in Google's satellite view. The keeper tended two 27 ft (8 m) post lights, one at either end of the canal, which cuts across an oxbow of the river. The canal, now called the Dutch Gap Cutoff, is about 4500 ft (1.4 km) long. The site is marked and preserved as part of an 800-acre (350-hectare) historical and conservation area that includes the site of the earliest English settlement in the area. Trabas has a photo of James River Light 151 (Admiralty J1478.05, USCG 2-12705), which is just offshore at the east entrance to the cutoff, near the location of the house. Located on the south bank of the river upstream from the I-295 bridge at the end of Coxendale Road. Site open. Owner: Chesterfield County. Site manager: Henricus Historical Park. ARLHS USA-1062.

Prince George County Lighthouse
Jordan Point (Range Rear) (3)
1941 (station established 1855; inactive 1927-1941). Active; focal plane 65 ft (20 m); white light, 1 s on, 1 s off. 60 ft (18 m) cylindrical steel skeletal tower. Trabas has a photo, and Google has a satellite view. The original lighthouse was demolished in 1875 when it was threatened by shoreline erosion. The Coast Guard has an 1885 photo and Huelse has a historic postcard view of the second lighthouse, a square "pepperpot" tower with a fog bell on one side. A new keeper's house was built in 1888. These buildings were abandoned in 1927 due to continuing shoreline erosion. The current structure is in service as the Jordan Point Range Rear Light. Located just off the south approach to the Benjamin Harrison Bridge (VA 156) east of Hopewell. Site and tower closed. Owner/site manager: U.S. Coast Guard. ARLHS USA-995; Admiralty J1477.11; USCG 2-12420.

Hampton Roads Metropolitan Area Lighthouses

York County Lighthouses
Tue Marshes (2)
1875. Inactive since 2012. The lighthouse, a square cottage screwpile, was demolished in 1960. It was replaced by a steel skeletal tower built on the original screwpile foundation; the light was deactivated in 2012 but the skeletal tower remains, carrying a diamond-shaped daymark painted white with an orange border. No photo of the present beacon is available; the Coast Guard has a historic photo, and Google has a good satellite view. Located in the Chesapeake Bay just east of Tue Point, the southern entrance to the York River. Accessible only by boat. Owner/site manager: U.S. Coast Guard. ARLHS USA-856; ex-Admiralty J1510; USCG 2-13505.
York Spit (3)
1870. Active; focal plane 30 ft (9 m); white flash every 6 s. The lighthouse, a hexagonal cottage screwpile, was demolished in 1960. The Coast Guard has a historic photo. After the lighthouse was demolished, a skeletal tower was built on the platform. That tower and the platform were destroyed by Hurricane Isabel in 2003. The current light is a attached to one of the pilings of the original screwpile foundation. Located in the Chesapeake Bay about 5 miles (8 km) east of Tue Point on the south side of the entrance to the York River. Accessible only by boat. Owner/site manager: U.S. Coast Guard. ARLHS USA-909; Admiralty J1504; USCG 2-13455.

Hampton City Lighthouses
[Back River]
1829 (Winslow Lewis). Inactive since 1936. This 30 ft (9 m) oldstyle brick tower was destroyed by Hurricane Flossy in 1956. The Coast Guard has a historic photo. Ruins are visible in the water just offshore; Google has a satellite view. Located off the end of Lighthouse Road in the Grand View section of Hampton, about 6 miles (10 km) north of Old Point Comfort. Site open. ARLHS USA-025.
Norfolk Entrance Reach Range Rear
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 60 ft (18 m); white light occulting once every 4 s. The tower also carries a passing light (focal plane 15 ft (4.5 m); white flash every 4 s). 60 ft (18 m) square cylindrical skeletal tower mounted on a square platform supported by piles. Trabas has a distant photo. Located about 2.5 km (1.5 mi) east of Buckroe Beach in Hampton. Accessible only by boat; there's a distant view from shore. Owner/site manager: U.S. Coast Guard. Admiralty J1419.1; USCG 2-9375.
* Old Point Comfort
1802 (Elzy Burroughs). Active; focal plane 54 ft (16.5 m); 2 red flashes, separated by 2 s, every 12 s; white sector to the southeast. 58 ft (17.5 m) early Federal octagonal sandstone tower with lantern and gallery, 4th order Fresnel lens (installed in the 1890s). The lighthouse is painted white with green trim; the lantern is painted green with a red roof. The 2-1/2 story Queen Anne Victorian wood keeper's house (1900) is a non-commissioned officer's residence. C.M. Hanchey's photo is at right, Trabas has a photo, Jerry Gammon has a 2012 photo, Wikimedia has several good photos, Marinas.com has aerial photos, Huelse has a historic postcard view, and Google has a satellite view of the station. A very well preserved lighthouse, restored in the late 1990s. Located in Fort Monroe, an active Army post until the base was closed in September 2011. In November the property was designated as a national monument and transferred to the national park system. Site open, tower closed. Owner: U.S. Coast Guard. Site manager: U.S. National Park Service (Fort Monroe National Monument). ARLHS USA-567; Admiralty J1420; USCG 2-9380.
* Fort Wool
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 25 ft (7.5 m); white flash every 4 s. Beacon mounted atop a concrete pillbox fortification at Fort Wool, one of the historic forts protecting the entrance to Hampton Roads. A closeup is available, Trabas has a photo, the light is seen atop the lower of the concrete towers in a view from the harbor, and Google has a satellite view. Located on an island adjoining the south portal of the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (I-64) in the middle of the entrance to Hampton Roads, opposite Old Point Comfort. Accessible by passenger ferry from the Hampton Visitor Center. Site open, tower closed. Owner/site manager: City of Hampton. ARLHS USA-1061; Admiralty J1424; USCG 2-9385.

Old Point Comfort Light, Hampton, June 2008
Flickr Creative Commons photo by C.M. Hanchey

Newport News City Lighthouses
Newport News Middle Ground
1891. Active; focal plane 52 ft (16 m); red flash every 10 s. 2-1/2 story round sparkplug-style cast iron tower with lantern and three galleries, incorporating a 3-story keeper's house, and mounted on an iron caisson; solar-powered 375 mm lens. The lighthouse is painted deep red, the lantern black. Fog bell (stroke every 15 s). Heath Cash has a closeup photo, Trabas has an excellent closeup, the Coast Guard has a historic photo, and Google has a satellite view and a distant street view. The lighthouse was dented in a collision with a tugboat in 1979. The light was upgraded in 2000 in response to requests for a better light from pilots; after being located on a pole outside the tower since 1986, the light was returned to the lantern room and converted from white to red to make it more visible against the lights of the bridge behind the lighthouse. In July 2003, two nonprofit groups submitted applications for the lighthouse under NHLPA, but neither application was accepted. As a result, in October 2005 the lighthouse was sold at auction to Robert Gonsoulin of Williamsburg, Virginia, who is working to fix up the lighthouse as a "private retreat" for his extended family. By September 2007, Gonsoulin had spent over $60,000 to restore the lighthouse and make it habitable. Located on a shoal off Newport News Point in Hampton Roads. Accessible only by boat but close to the Monitor-Merrimac Bridge-Tunnel (I-664); visible from King-Lincoln Park near the north end of the bridge-tunnel. Site and tower closed. Owner/site manager: private. ARLHS USA-549; Admiralty J1458; USCG 2-10815.
Deepwater Shoals (3)
1966 (station established 1855). Active; focal plane 34 ft (10 m); flash every 6 s, white or red depending on direction. Skeletal tower mounted on the hexagonal platform of the 1867 lighthouse, which was demolished in 1966. Trabas has a photo, and Google has a good satellite view. Located in the James River estuary about 1 mile (1.6 km) northwest of Fort Eustis. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed. Owner/site manager: U.S. Coast Guard. ARLHS USA-220; Admiralty J1475.9; USCG 2-11780.

Portsmouth City Lighthouses
**** Lightship 101 (WAL-524) Portsmouth
1916. Decommissioned 1960 (a decorative light is displayed). 360-ton steel ship, single-masted, length 101 ft (30.8 m), beam 25 ft (7.6 m). The light was displayed from the top of the mast. Hull painted red, superstructure painted white. A photo is at right, Anderson has a good page for the lightship, Matthew Jenkins also has a page, the Coast Guard has historical information, and Google has a street view and a satellite view. The ship was stationed off Cape Charles, Virginia, in 1916-24, at the Overfalls station off Cape Henlopen, Delaware, in 1925-51, and on Stonehorse Shoal off Nantucket, Massachusetts, 1951-64. In 1964 the Coast Guard was preparing to sell the ship for scrap. Instead, a Hampton Roads fishing boat captain, Tony Panello, towed the ship behind his own vessel from Nantucket to Portsmouth in order to save it. Renamed Portsmouth, the ship was donated to the city. In 2004 the lightship reopened after an extensive restoration. Located on land at Water and London Streets, Portsmouth waterfront. Open Friday through Sunday year round. Owner/site manager: Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum and Lightship Museum. ARLHS USA-663.
* [Hog Island (2) (lens)]
1896. Inactive since 1948 (decorative lighting is now displayed). Replica lantern with original 1st order Fresnel lens. A closeup is available, Lighthouse Digest has Jeremy D'Entremont's article on the lens, and Google has a street view and an aerial view. The Hog Island lighthouse was located at Great Machipongo Inlet on the Eastern Shore. A pyramidal skeletal tower very similar to Cape Charles Light was built there in 1896, but it was demolished in 1948 because of continuing beach erosion in the area. The 1st order lens was displayed at the Mariner's Museum in Newport News until 1972. After being in storage for 30 years, it now shines nightly at the end of High Street on the Portsmouth waterfront, 2 blocks south of the lightship Portsmouth. Owner (lens): U.S. Coast Guard. Site manager: City of Portsmouth.

LV-101 Portsmouth, Portsmouth, May 2008
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Earl - What I Saw

Norfolk City Lighthouse
Thimble Shoal (3)
1914 (station established 1872). Active; focal plane 55 ft (16.5 m); white flash every 10 s. 40 ft (12 m) round sparkplug-style cast iron tower, with lantern and upper and lower galleries, incorporating a 3-story keeper's house, and mounted on an iron caisson; solar powered RB-355 aerobeacon. The original 4th order Fresnel lens is on display at the USCG Training Center at Yorktown. Lighthouse painted red, lantern black. Fog horn (3 s blast every 30 s) operates continuously. Tony Alter's photo is at right, Trabas has a closeup by Anderson, Marinas.com has aerial photos, Lighthouse Digest has Judy Bloodgood Bander's article on the light station and its history, and the Coast Guard has a historic photo. Screwpile lighthouses at this high-traffic location burned in 1880 and again in 1909, the second time after a collision with a ship. Huelse has a historic postcard view of the 1880 lighthouse. The lighthouse was extensively restored by the Coast Guard in 1988, repainted and repaired in 1997, and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. In 2003-04 the lighthouse was offered for transfer under NHLPA, but there were no applications, and in October 2005 the lighthouse was sold at auction for $65,000 to Peter Jurewicz of Smithfield, Virginia. Jurewicz grew up in nearby Ocean View and bought the lighthouse because he always wanted to visit it. Located in the Chesapeake off Willoughby Spit, adjacent to the main channel into Hampton Roads. Accessible only by boat, but there are good views from the beach at many points of Willoughby Spit in the Willoughby-Ocean View neighborhood of Norfolk. Site and tower closed. Owner/site manager: U.S. Coast Guard. ARLHS USA-842; Admiralty J1416; USCG 2-9310.

Thimble Shoal Light, Norfolk, November 2009
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Tony Alter

Virginia Beach City Lighthouses
Little Creek Range Rear
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 76 ft (23 m); continuous green light visible only on the range line. 72 ft (22 m) square cylindrical skeletal tower. Trabas has a photo that shows this light in the center and the front light on the left, and Google has a satellite view. Little Creek, a harbor on the south side of the Chesapeake just east of Norfolk, is the headquarters of amphibious forces for the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. Until completion of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel in 1964, it was also the terminal for ferries crossing the Bay to the Eastern Shore. Located in the naval base on the east side of the former ferry terminal. Site and tower closed. Site manager: Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story. Admiralty J1413.1; USCG 2-10500.
Little Creek East Jetty
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 70 ft (21.5 m); quick-flashing green light. 70 ft (21.5 m) triangular cylindrical skeletal tower. Trabas has a photo, and Google has an indistinct satellite view. Located at the end of the east jetty at the entrance to Little Creek. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed. Site manager: Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story. Admiralty J1414; USCG 2-10505.
*** Cape Henry (1)
1792 (John McComb). Inactive since 1881. 90 ft (27.5 m) octagonal sandstone tower with lantern and gallery. Tower unpainted; lantern is silver-colored. C.M. Hanchey's photo is at right, Anderson has an excellent page for the lighthouse, Marinas.com has aerial photos, Huelse has a historic postcard view of both lighthouses, and Google has a street view and an aerial view. This is the first lighthouse built by the Federal government and one of the best preserved lighthouses of the early Federal period. Recognized as a National Historic Landmark. The interior was restored in 2002. In 2003 the eroded sandstone foundation of the lighthouse was repaired. In August 2011, an earthquake created some cracks in the tower, but engineers determined they were not serious. Located on Atlantic Avenue in Virginia Beach, surrounded by Fort Story, an active U.S. Army post (visitor passes are available at the East Gate; photo identification is required for all visitors age 16 and older). Site and tower open daily (small admission fee). Owner/site manager: Preservation Virginia. ARLHS USA-122.
* Cape Henry (2)
1881. Active; focal plane 164 ft (50 m); three flashes every 20 s: two short flashes followed by one long (7 s) flash; red sector covers dangerous shoals. 164 ft (50 m) octagonal cast-iron-clad brick tower, original 1st order Fresnel lens. Unusual daymark: alternating black and white vertical bands; lantern is black. The 2-story brick principal keeper's house and two 1-1/2 story wood assistant keepers' house buildings are all standing; one is currently in use as an Army residence. C.M. Hanchey's photo is at right, Marinas.com has aerial photos, and Google has a street view and an aerial view. In 2001, the Coast Guard conducted a test of fuel cells as the lighthouse energy source. In late 2005, the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (now Preservation Virginia) announced it was seeking an agreement with the Coast Guard to manage and interpret the light station; this could lead to opening the tower and keeper's houses to the public. So far no agreement has been obtained. Located across the street from the old tower (see previous entry). Site and tower closed, but the lighthouse can be seen at close range from the old light. Owner/site manager: U.S. Coast Guard. ARLHS USA-121; Admiralty J1408; USCG 2-0370.
Cape Henry Lights
New (left) and Old Cape Henry Lighthouses, Virginia Beach, June 2008
Flickr Creative Commons photo by C.M. Hanchey

Offshore Light Tower
Chesapeake
1965. Active; focal plane 117 ft (35.5 m); 2 white flashes (separated by 3 s) every 15 s. Fog horn (blast every 30 s) operates continuously. Texas platform with square cylindrical tower with lantern at one corner. The platform also carries a NOAA C-MAN automatic weather station. A 2009 photo is available. Endangered: the tower was considered for deactivation in 2004, but as of 2014 it remains in use, the last of its class to be in operation. In January 2013, the U.S. Department of Energy announced plans to use the station as a platform for wind energy testing. Located 14.5 miles (23 km) east northeast of Cape Henry. Accessible only by boat. Owner/site manager: U.S. Coast Guard. ARLHS USA-168; Admiralty J1403; USCG 2-0360.

Information available on lost lighthouses:

Notable faux lighthouses:

  • Cape Charles Watertower is topped by an open lantern and resembles a lighthouse, but it is not an aid to navigation. A closeup photo is available, and Google has a satellite view.
  • Fleeton Point, Northumberland County, Northern Neck, is a small replica of a cottage screwpile lighthouse; it is not recognized as an aid to navigation, and Google has a satellite view.
  • Smithfield Station has a cottage screwpile lighthouse replica as part of an inn on the Pagan River at Smithfield; the lighthouse displays a decorative light but it is not recognized as an aid to navigation. Jim Brickett has a good photo, and Google has a street light and a satellite view.

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Posted 2000. Checked and revised May 20, 2014. Lighthouses: 28. Lightships: 1. Site copyright 2014 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.