First Historic Tower Quick Facts
Year Station Established: 1792
Is the Light operational? No
Year Light First Lit:
Year Deactivated: 1881
Tower Height: 90 ft.
Original Optic: 18" Argand Lamps
Present Optic: Removed
Existing Keepers Quarters? Yes
Number of Stories: 2
Construction Materials: Frame
Second Tower Quick Facts
Year Station Established: 1881
Is the Light operational? Yes
Year Light First Lit:
Year Automated: 1984
Shape: Octagonal Pyramidal
Tower Height: 163 ft.
Original Optic: 1st Order, Fresnel
Present Optic: 1st Order, Fresnel
Existing Keepers Quarters?
Cape Henry Lighthouses
Fort Story, VA
(17 photos, 290KB total download)
Cape Henry Lighthouses Videos
Last Visited: May, 2008
The Cape Henry Lighthouse has long been important for the large amount of ocean-going shipping traffic for the harbors, its rivers, and shipping headed to ports on the Chesapeake Bay. It was the first lighthouse authorized by the U.S. government, dating from 1792. It was also the first federal construction project under the Constitution, for an original contract amount of $15,200 (an additional $2,500 was required to finish the lighthouse). See also the "Boston Light" article for more on lighthouse firsts.
In 1798, Benjamin Latrobe visited Cape Henry Lighthouse and described it as "an octangular truncated pyramid of eight sides, rising 90 feet to the light..." The Old Cape Henry Lighthouse is 26 feet in diameter at its base, and 16 feet at its top.
In the 1870s, concerns about the condition and safety of the Old Lighthouse at Cape Henry led to the construction of the New Cape Henry Lighthouse in 1881, which stands 350 feet to the southeast of the original. The lighthouse was fully automated in 1983 and remains in use today.
The older lighthouse was acquired in 1930 by Preservation Virginia (formerly known as the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities). A brick lining and an iron stairway have been added to the interior. The lighthouse is open to the public and a fine view can be enjoyed from its observation platform. It was designated a National Historic Landmark on January 29, 1964. In 2002 the American Society of Civil Engineers designated the lighthouse a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.
The lighthouses are located in the city of Virginia Beach within the boundaries of Fort Story, an Army base. The Cape Henry Memorial is adjacent to the lighthouses.
The Cape Henry Lighthouses were backdrops for a scene in the 2001 movie Hearts in Atlantis, based on the 1999 Stephen King novel.
November 1 through March 15: 10am - 4pm
March 16 through October 31: 10am - 5pm
See the Preservation Virginia website for more information.
The lighthouses are within an active Army base so you need to go through security to get access. If you're in a rental car make sure you have full and complete paperwork! When getting your rental car tell the people that you'll be going to military bases so they give you all the documentation you need.
Latitude/Longitude: 36.921867, -76.0146
Nearest Address: Coast Artillery Rd, Virginia Beach, VA
- From Norfolk, take I-264 east to onto I-64 West
- In 2.2 miles take exit 282 for Northampton Blvd/US-13 toward Chesapeake Bay/Bridge-Tunnel
- Stay on Us-13 for 4.3 miles then take the US-60 E/Shore Dr ramp to Beaches
- In 8 miles turn left onto Atlantic Ave.
- At this point you'll enter the Army Base where you'll need to show ID, car information, and they'll probably search the car. Once through security, follow the road to the lighthouses and parking.
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