Old Cape Henry Lighthouse

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583 Atlantic Ave, Virginia Beach, VA, USA

Old Cape Henry Lighthouse Virginia Beach Reviews

Zagnut66 Zagnut66
112 reviews
Old Cape Henry Lighthouse Mar 26, 2017
Old Cape Henry Lighthouse was built in 1792 as the first federally funded lighthouse in the young United States, guiding ships along the Virginia coast into the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. It was along the beach of Cape Henry that the first English settlers made landfall in 1607 before establishing the Jamestown colony further inland on the James River. It was off the coast of Cape Henry that a French naval fleet under Rear Admiral de Grasse prevented a British fleet from evacuating British land forces in the Battle of the Chesapeake, setting the stage for the Battle of Yorktown in September 1781 that ended the American Revolution.

A new lighthouse opened in 1881 and is still in operation today. The original light is now open to the public for self-guided tours. It’s a bit of a hassle to reach it since Cape Henry was converted into Fort Story, a small military base, during World War I. To enter the base, you must have a driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance, and allow your car to be searched. It takes about ten minutes for the whole process. There is a gift shop at the base of the lighthouse where tickets are purchased at $8 a pop.

Inside the light is a narrow spiral staircase that ends with a short ladder to reach the tower. I had no problems getting up there, which was probably the most exercise I’ve had in months. On the day of my visit it was cold and windy with few visitors, but the sky was clear for some great views. During the summer it can get stifling hot inside, so it might be best to visit in the cooler months. The “new” lighthouse is not open to the public.

Just down the street is a small memorial marking the First Landing of the Jamestown colonists. It isn’t much, just a concrete cross, a bronze statue of Admiral de Grasse and some historical markers. An observation deck on the sand dunes above looks out over the site of the naval battle. Cape Henry is a short drive from the resort area of Virginia Beach and makes for a nice diversion from the typical beach town stuff.
Cape Henry Lighthouse
Cape Henry Lighthouse
Going up
One last climb
9 / 9 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
aloneinthecrowd says:
Congrats on your feature, Bill :) Informative review as always.
Posted on: Mar 30, 2017
sim1 says:
Congrats on your featured review! :-)
Posted on: Mar 30, 2017
bensonryan says:
Congrats on your feature
Posted on: Mar 30, 2017
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furiousfowl furiousf…
19 reviews
Cape Henry Lighthouse Jul 20, 2008
this light i didnt expect to go thru military security to get in and didnt know it was on an active military base, Fort Story. the old cape henry light was built in 1792, it started to crack in 1870 and was replaced with a new lighthouse just 357 feet away and is still an active navigation aid to ships and operated by the USCG. it is a National Historic Landmark. Today the old cape henry lighthouse silently guards the entry way into the chesapeake bay
grandmar grandmar
247 reviews
First in the USA - Old Cape Henry Lighthouse 1792 Nov 27, 2004
Old) Cape Henry Lighthouse is the third oldest lighthouse still standing in the U.S. and the oldest on the Chesapeake Bay.

The Colony of Virginia could not raise the funds for the lighthouse they needed. Finally in 1791, Alexander Hamilton contracted with John McComb, Jr. of New York to design the lighthouse. McComb had been the designer of the planned residence for the President, in New York City. Cape Henry was the first lighthouse structure authorized, fully completed, and lighted by the newly organized Federal Government.

The lighthouse is an octagonal stone structure, faced with hewn or hammer-dressed stone -- the first of three lighthouses to be built by John McComb, Jr. The tower was completed in October, 1792. George Washington appointed Laban Goffigan, probably of Norfolk, to become the first keeper to light the fish oil burning lamps of Cape Henry Lighthouse.

In 1870 the tower began to crack and a replacement was built and put into service in 1881. The old lighthouse was not torn down because it continued to be a day marker for navigation, and was recognized for historical and architectural significance. In 1930 the old tower and 1.77 acres were deeded to the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities

The tower is run by the APVA and is open to be climbed


* 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.--Nov. 1-March 15

* 10 a.m-5 p.m.--March 16-Oct. 31

* Site Closed Thanksgiving Day

* Lighthouse Closed December 5 - January 4 (Gift Shop Open) because it is decorated for Christmas and there are too many wires and cords for it to be safe for visitors to climb.

Admission: Adults(including seniors) $3.00, Children 6-12 $2.00 (under 6 are free)


* From I-64 in Norfolk take Exit 282 for Route 13 North - Northampton Blvd.

* Take the exit for Route 60 - Shore Drive and turn right

* After crossing into Seashore/First Landing State Park turn left into the west gate of Fort Story. BE PREPARED TO SHOW ID to get onto the Fort.

Phone: (757) 422-9421

Website: http://www.cr.nps.gov/maritime/nhl/capehenr.htm
Old Cape Henry Lighthouse
Old Cape Henry Lighthouse
Old and New Cape Henry Lighthouse
Visitor's Center Old Cape Henry Li…
1 / 1 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy

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