Timeline: Cape Charles Lighthouse

(Located on the west side of the south part of Smith Island, seacoast of Virginia, 12 miles NNE of Cape Henry, Manager -VA Nature Conservancy (VA Coast Reserve) – tallest skeletal tower in US) (Revised 03/26/2013)

1828 First lighthouse, 51 foot masonry tower constructed.

1860 Construction of a second lighthouse begun.

1862 Confederate guerillas raid site and steal supplies; construction of tower
halted at 83 feet.

1864 Construction resumes – 150 foot brick tower completed, 600 feet from

1883 Seawalls constructed. Tower 300 feet from shore.

1889 Storm washes away protective timbers. Lighthouse condemned.

1894 Present 192 foot, octagonal, pyramidal cast iron skeletal tower built, one
mile west of 2nd LH. Fitted with 1st order Fresnel lens.

1927 Condemned stone tower washes away during severe nor’easter.

1940s Three WWII observation towers built by Navy.

1963 Automation. Fresnel lens removed & donated to Mariners’ Museum,
Newport News, VA. Replaced by modern, solar-powered DCB-24 optic.

1989 Coast Guard does maintenance & renovation – cleaning, scraping &
repainting tower. Cracked lantern panels replaced.

July, 2000 Brush fire destroys 2.5 story keeper’s dwelling. Coal house &
generator building survive.

Fall, 2000 Structural restoration by Coast Guard.

2020  The Coast Guard abandons the light and the lighthouse is no longer an active aid to navigation.

Source: Bay Beacons by Linda Turbyville, Lighthouses and Lifesaving Stations of Virginia by Patrick Evans-Hylton and Lighthouse Directory – http://www.unc.edu/~rowlett/lighthouse/va.htm

Updated 7/18/2020

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