Timeline: Back River Lighthouse

Timeline: Back River Lighthouse

1829:   A 30-foot-tall, conical, whitewashed brick lighthouse with ten oil lamps and ten reflectors and one-story keeper’s dwelling is constructed for just under $5,000 by Winslow Lewis between Back River entrance & the Grandview area of Hampton, Virginia.

1855:   Installation of a new revolving machine containing six, twenty-one-inch parabolic reflectors & six fountain lamps.

1862:   Confederate troops vandalize the lighthouse.

1868:   Riprap stone is placed around the tower to protect it from erosion.

1877:   The tower is noted as being in “a very dilapidated condition” due to wind & waves.  In August & September 1877, small stones are placed around the foundation of the lighthouse and 100 cubic yards of larger riprap stones are placed on top, “weighing from 1,500 to 3,000 pounds each”, to prevent further damage.  Minor repairs are made to the keeper’s dwelling.

1881:   A new kitchen floor is installed in the keeper’s dwelling.  To prevent drifting of the lighthouse, movable screens are placed around it.

1887:   In September 1887, “450 cubic yards of riprap stone were placed deposited around this structure to protect it from the advance of the sea”.

1894:   The keeper’s dwelling is enlarged by adding a second story, adding an additional three rooms.  The small structure which was used as a kitchen by the construction workers was left to be used as a “summer kitchen for the keeper”.

1899:   The cistern structure is repaired, along with the rear porch and elevated walkway to the lighthouse.

1900:   A bell buoy was placed on June 15, 1900.

1903:   A severe storm destroys the concrete wall around the keeper’s dwelling.  A bulkhead approximately 459 feet long was built along the front and sides of the house.  The elevated 144-foot-long walkway from the tower to the lighthouse was also rebuilt.

1914:   The keeper’s dwelling is sold and dismantled.

1915:   The light is automated.

1936:   The lighthouse is decommissioned.

1956:   The remaining structure is destroyed by Hurricane Flossy on September 27, 1956.


  1. Annual Report of the Lighthouse Board, various years.
  2. Forgotten Beacons, Patrick Hornberger & Linda Turbyville, 1997.


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