Timeline: Hog Island Lighthouse

1837:   On March 3, Congress appropriates $5,000 to construct a lighthouse on the south end of Hog Island, Virginia.

1837:   In a letter dated April 18, Commander Alexander Claxton wrote a letter to Commodore John Rodgers, President of the Board of Navy Commissioners. In the letter, he recommended that the money appropriated by Congress was not enough.  He also believed a light vessel would be more useful than a lighthouse at this location.

1850:   On September 28, Congress appropriates $10,000 to build two lights on the south end of Hog Island.

1851:   On May 31, Arthur & Mary Downing and Richard B. Windsor convey 6-1/2 acres of land on Hog Island to the United States at a price of $500.

1852:   A white conical brick tower is constructed and equipped with 15 lamps set in 21-inch reflectors that exhibited a fixed white light.

1855:   A fourth-order Fresnel lens is installed to replace the 15 lamps.

1862:   The light at Hog Island is re-established after the eastern shore of Virginia is back in US Government control by the military.

1868:   It is recommended that the current fountain lamp be replaced with a Franklin lamp. Various repairs are made to the keeper’s dwelling and lighthouse.

1869:   The lightning rod on the lighthouse is fitted with a new point and a Franklin lamp is installed to replace the fountain lamp.

1883:   A new drive-well is installed and various minor repairs are made.

1888:   The U.S. Lighthouse Board recommends replacing the current fourth-order lens with a first-order lens on a 150-foot tall tower at a cost of $125,000. The current light is of little use to vessels unless they run close to the shore. A bill is introduced in the House of Representatives for an appropriation of $5,000 to construct a wharf and roadway on Hog Island from the wharf to the lighthouse and life-saving station.

1889:   On March 2, Congress appropriates $5,000 to construct a wharf and roadway to the lighthouse at Hog Island. The U.S. Lighthouse Board once again recommends replacing the current fourth-order light with a first-order light on a 150-foot tall tower at a cost of $125,000.

1891: The cistern is repaired, and a new pump is installed. Arrangements are made for acquiring the necessary land to construct the wharf and roadway. The U.S. Lighthouse Board once again recommends replacing the current fourth-order light with the first-order light on a 150-foot tall tower.

1892:   Keeper John E. Johnson and his crew rescued 26 of the 27 men aboard the Spanish steamship San Albano, after running aground. He was later awarded the Gold Life Saving Medal.

1893:   On March 3, Congress appropriates $30,000 to replace the current lighthouse with a new first-order light.  The U.S. Lighthouse Board now requests an appropriation of an additional $95,000 to complete the balance of $125,000 needed. The plans for constructing an iron tower-like the lighthouse at Cape Charles is completed. Request for bids to construct both lighthouses are opened in April and on May 17, the lowest bid of &78,209 for both lighthouses is accepted.

1894:   Congress appropriates $75,000 on August 18 to complete the new lighthouse. The current lighthouse is in bad shape, but no repairs are made since it will be replaced. The construction of a wharf and roadway leading to the site starts in April and is completed in May.

1895:   In January, quarters for the workers, storehouses, and shop, a tramway from the wharf to the construction site, a boom derrick and engine are completed. The foundation for the tower begins and piers are completed in April. Metalwork for the new tower is delivered on June 14 and the erection of the tower is completed on September 30. It is a cast-iron pyramidal skeletal tower with a central cylinder.

1896:   The lens used at the Cape Charles light station is removed and installed at the new Hog Island station. The new light is exhibited for the first time on January 31, 1896. Three keeper’s dwellings are also completed.

1897:   The temporary quarters for the workers are removed. Steps are made for the porches of the three keeper dwellings and kitchens of the two assistant keeper homes. Mantels, closets, dressers, and shelving are installed in the houses.

1898:   Telephones are placed in the tower and in each of the keeper dwellings.

1899:   Approximately 1,374 feet of a picket fence is built to enclose the station and 257-feet of wooden walkways are constructed from the entrance gate to the main road.  The old sheds, shops, and equipment used for constructing the new station are removed.

1904:   The 294-foot addition to the landing wharf is rebuilt after being carried away during a heavy storm.

1905:   Two steel skeleton frame structures are constructed in June to guide vessels across the outer bar at Great Machipongo Inlet.

1906:   The two steel towers constructed in 1905 are discontinued due to the dangerous condition of the front tower.

1915:  Keeper Allie L. Davis is awarded the efficiency gold star.

1916:   Keeper Allie L. Davis is awarded the lighthouse efficiency pennant.

1918:  Keeper Allie L. Davis is awarded the commissioner’s efficiency star.

1921:   General repairs are made to the tower, keeper dwellings, and outbuildings at a cost of $6,077.

1934:   The lighthouse is automated.

1935:   Modern plumbing and heating systems are installed in two of the keeper dwellings at a cost of $12,353.

1948:   After many years of erosion, the lighthouse is discontinued and demolished with dynamite in March.

2004:   The first-order lens is placed on display in a pavilion on the waterfront in Portsmouth, Virginia.


  1. Annual Report of the Lighthouse Board, various years.
  2. Lighthouse Inspection Reports Database, various years
  3. Lighthouses and Lifesaving Stations of Virginia, Patrick Evans-Hylton, 2005
  4. Lighthouse Friends website, accessed February 2020

Updated 5/27/2020

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