Timeline: Nansemond River Lighthouse

1876: On July 31, 1876, Congress appropriates $15,000 to build a lighthouse at the mouth of the Nansemond River, Virginia.

1877: A tract of land for construction of the lighthouse is obtained from the Governor of Virginia.

1878: The framing for the superstructure of the lighthouse is started at the Lazaretto depot on February 26 and is completed by the end of March. The metalwork for the structure is taken from the foundation of the old lighthouse at Roanoke Marshes, North Carolina.

1878: The materials and workers for constructing the hexagonal lighthouse are loaded on the lighthouse tender Tulip and leave Baltimore on July 5, arriving at the site on July 10. On July 13, piles are driven for the working platform and completed on the 16th. Piles for the foundation of the lighthouse start on July 18 and completed by the 22nd. By July 23, all ironwork is completed, and construction of the lighthouse is started and completed in August. The lighthouse is equipped with a sixth-order lens fueled by mineral oil with a fixed red light. It is first exhibited on November 1.

1880: The lighthouse is repainted.

1883: New boat hoisters are installed.

1899: The sixth-order lens was replaced with a fifth-order Fresnel lens.

1906: The machine operated fog bell stops working on May 16. It was repaired and working by July 10.

1915: Nansemond River Lighthouse is awarded the lighthouse efficiency pennant, in recognition of good and efficient work. Head Keeper Temple Ripley is awarded the inspector’s efficiency gold star.

1933: On May 23, Superintendent of lighthouses L. M. Hopkins begins the process for automating the lighthouse by proposing the following: changing the light from oil to acetylene, discontinue use of the fog bell and ending the position of lightkeeper and assistant, which would save $3,420 per year. The change was approved on June 2.

1935: The lighthouse is deactivated and dismantled. It is replaced with an automated light on a skeletal tower that was mounted on the remaining screwpile foundation. This light remained until 1974 when it was discontinued as an active aid to navigation.

1. Annual Report of the Lighthouse Board, various years.
2. Forgotten Beacons, Patrick Hornberger & Linda Turbyville, 1997.
3. Screwpiles, The Forgotten Lighthouses, Larry Saint, Karla Smith, John H. Sheally II, Phyllis Speidell, 2018
4. The Evening Star, August 27, 1915

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