The first Pungoteague Creek Lighthouse was built in 1854 just offshore near the entrance to the Pungoteague Creek in Accomack County, Virginia. It was built by Major Hartman Bache and was the first screwpile built in the Chesapeake Bay.
During the winter of 1854, the superstructure, foundation, and ironwork were completed in Philadelphia, and in April was shipped on a vessel to the construction site. The hexagonal screwpile structure was built on seven pneumatic piles. The structure was a 30-foot diameter, one-story structure with a gallery all around. It consisted of a sitting room, bedroom, storeroom, and kitchen. Two iron water tanks from floor to ceiling collected rainwater from the roof, one located in the kitchen and the other in the sitting room. The ironwork was painted red, the dwelling, tower, and lantern painted white, and the roof and floors painted brown. It was equipped with a fifth-order Fresnel lens lit by a Cornelius lamp. The light was first exhibited on November 1, 1854.
On Feb 2, 1856, the lighthouse was overturned by a huge mass of floating ice. The keepers escaped harm and the lantern, lens, along with many supplies were saved. The lighthouse had the shortest recorded existence on the Bay—a total of 459 days.
Between 1856 and 1908, a privately maintained beacon marked the entrance to the creek.
In 1908 a flashing light on a concrete-filled caisson was installed on the existing stone rubble foundation. As a result of the destruction of the Pungoteague Creek lighthouse, efforts were made to further protect future screwpiles with additional riprap.
Photo Courtesy U.S. Coast Guard
1. Annual Report of the Lighthouse Board, various years.
2. Forgotten Beacons, Patrick Hornberger & Linda Turbyville, 1997.
Head Keeper: John Winder (1854 – 1856)
Assistant: William Fowler (1854), Edward P. Colonna (1854 – 1856)