Lighthouses of the U.S. Virgin Islands

The U.S. Virgin Islands territory is a former Danish colony, the Danish West Indies, purchased by the United States from Denmark in 1917. The territory includes three principal islands, St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix, plus a large number of islets and cays. The population is about 110,000.

Shortly before the change in sovereignty, Denmark built two lighthouses in the colony. These two lights are among the most endangered of all U.S. lighthouses today, even though one of them is still active.

The U.S. installed a third light at Fort Louise Augusta near Christiansted, St. Croix, and the photo below by Shawn and Kris McCourt proves that this lighthouse still stands (special thanks to Shawn's father, George McCourt, for sending this photo).

A fourth light was at Muhlenfeldt Point, the southeastern entrance to the harbor of Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. Nothing remains of this light station.

ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS World List of Lights. Admiralty numbers are from Volume J of the Admiralty List of Lights & Fog Signals. USCG numbers are from Volume III of the U.S. Coast Guard Light List, and U.S. NGA numbers are from Publication 110.

General Sources
Coast Guard Lighthouses - West Indies/Virgin Islands
Data and historic photos posted by the U.S. Coast Guard Historian's office.
Online List of Lights - Virgin Islands
Photos by various photographers posted by Alexander Trabas.
World of Lighthouses - U.S. Virgin Islands
Photos by various photographers available from Lightphotos.net.
Lighthouses in the Caribbean
Aerial photos posted by Marinas.com.
Leuchttürme Mittelamerikas und der Karibik auf historischen Postkarten
Historic postcard views posted by Klaus Huelse.


Hams Bluff Light, St. Croix, September 2003
U.S. Coast Guard photo

St. Thomas Lighthouses
Buck Island (1)
1913. Inactive since the mid 1990s. 25 ft (8 m) square steel tower with lantern and gallery, attached to a small service room. The lighthouse was painted white and the lantern black, although nearly all the paint has weathered off the rusty building. Jeff Johnson's 2009 closeup is at right, a 2007 view from the sea is available, the Coast Guard has a historic photo, and Google has a satellite view. This lighthouse was built by the Danish government shortly before the islands became a U.S. territory in 1917. Critically endangered, the lighthouse was added to the Lighthouse Digest Doomsday List in April 2004. Located at the highest point of Buck Island, about 3 mi (5 km) south of St. Thomas. The island has been a wildlife refuge since 1969. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed. Owner: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Site manager: Buck Island National Wildlife Refuge. ARLHS VIR-002.
Buck Island (2)
1990s. Active; focal plane 139 ft (42 m); white flash every 4 s. Approx. 40 ft (12 m) square cylindrical steel skeletal tower. A 2007 view from the sea is available. Located adjacent to the historic lighthouse. Site open, tower closed. Admiralty J5628; USCG 3-33060; NGA 14632.

St. Croix Lighthouses
Hams Bluff (1)
1915. Active (?); focal plane 394 ft (120 m); two white flashes, separated by 10 s, every 30 s. Approx. 35 ft (10.5 m) cast iron tower. Two 1-story concrete keeper's houses are now owned by the U.S. Navy. A Coast Guard photo appears above, Aaron Paden has a 2009 photo, Alex Bunjes has a 2011 photo, Marinas.com has an aerial photo, a distant view is available, the Coast Guard also has a historic photo, and Google has a satellite view. This lighthouse was built by the Danish government shortly before the islands became a U.S. territory in 1917. Clearly endangered by poor maintenance, the lighthouse was added to the Lighthouse Digest Doomsday List in April 2004. The Coast Guard Historian site says the lighthouse was deactivated in the mid 1990s, but Stanley Sneed has a 2007 photo showing the lighthouse still in service. Located on the northwestern coast of St. Croix, marking the approach to the harbor of Fredericksted. Site open, tower closed (although land access was previously closed to the public, it appears from recent photos that the lighthouse is now accessible by a hiking trail). Site manager: U.S. Navy. ARLHS VIR-001; Admiralty J5640; USCG 3-32845; NGA 14656.
Hams Bluff (2)
2010 (?). Active; focal plane 394 ft (120 m); two white flashes, separated by 10 s, every 30 s. Approx. 30 ft (9 m) square cylindrical skeletal tower. Alex Bunjes has a 2011 photo that shows both towers. Located adjacent to the historic lighthouse.
Buck Island Light
Buck Island Light, St. Thomas, July 2009
Flickr photo copyright Jeff Johnson; used by permission
* Fort Louise Augusta (Christiansted Entrance Range Front) (1)
1919. Inactive since 1931. 1-story concrete keeper's house, formerly with a lantern mounted at one end. Building painted white with a red corrugated metal roof. The active range light (focal plane 45 ft (13.5 m); quick-flashing white light) is mounted on a 17 ft (5 m) square skeletal tower next to the house. Shawn and Kris McCourt contributed the photo at right, Don Wiss has posted a panorama of Christiansted harbor in which the active lighthouse appears at the far right, the Coast Guard has a photo of the lighthouse in its original form, and Google has a satellite view. The rear light is on a skeletal mast of unknown height seen in a second Google satellite view. Located on a promontory at the north end of Christiansted harbor. Accessible by road; the McCourts report the site is not easy to find, so local assistance is suggested. Site open, tower closed. Site manager: unknown. ARLHS VIR-006; Admiralty J5642; USCG 3-32870; NGA 14664.

Information available on lost lighthouses:

  • Berg Hill Range Front (?-?), Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. This light has been replaced by a small skeletal tower. USCG 32575; Admiralty J5618; NGA 14624.
  • Muhlenfeldt Point (1844-?), St. Thomas (see also the postcard view of the 1912 lighthouse posted by Huelse). The site of this lighthouse is occupied now by a Marriott beach resort. ARLHS VIR-005.

Notable faux lighthouses:

  • Christiansted Watchtower (ca. 1679), St. Croix. This historic tower on the Christiansted waterfront is often mistaken for a lighthouse. As far as is known, it was never an aid to navigation.
Fort Louise Augusta Lighthouse
Fort Louise Augusta Light, St. Croix, April 2008
photo copyright Shawn and Kris McCourt; used by permission

Adjoining pages: East: Anguilla | West: Puerto Rico

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Created May 2002. Checked and revised November 9, 2013. Lighthouses: 5. Site copyright 2012 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.