Old Point Comfort
Old Point Comfort Quick Facts
Year Station Established: 1774
Is the Light operational? Yes
Year Light First Lit: 1802
Year Automated: 1972
Shape: Octagonal Conical
Tower Height: 54 ft.
Original Optic: 11 lamps & 14" reflectors
Present Optic: 4th Order, Fresnel
Existing Keepers Quarters? Yes
Year Constructed: 1900
Number of Stories: 2.5
Architectural Style: Queen Anne Victorian
Construction Materials: Wood frame
Old Point Comfort Lighthouse
(5 photos, 111KB total download)
Last Visited: June, 2008
Records of aids to navigation at Old Point Comfort date to 1775, when John Dams was paid to maintain a beacon there. Its location at the entrance to Hampton Roads made it one of the first points designated for a light by the new United States federal government, and appropriations were made starting in 1800. The light was constructed by Elzy Burroughs and put into service in 1803, though a keeper's house was not built until 1823.
In the War of 1812 the light was one of several seized by British forces in their advance on Washington, DC. Following the war, Fort Monroe was constructed on the point, situated so that its walls were a short distance from the light. In the Civil War it escaped damage and extinguishing, as Fort Monroe was held by Union forces throughout. By this time the original lamp and reflector arrangement had given way to a Fresnel lens. Following the war consideration was made of deactivating the light, as development around the point had made it less conspicuous. The light was retained, however, and a program of improvements to the grounds and facilities toward the end of the century culminated in the replacement of the keeper's house with a new structure in 1891.
A variety of upgrades and innovations were applied to the light in the early twentieth century, including an experimental photoelectric control for the fog signal installed in 1936. The characteristic was altered several times as well. Red sectors in the lantern glass showed a white sector until the entire signal was made flashing red.
Upon automation in 1973 the keeper's house was transferred to the Army, which continues to use it as an officer's dwelling. The lantern is painted in an unusual combination of a red roof and green rails, decking, and walls. The light continues in use.
The lighthouse is owned by the Coast Guard. The grounds are open to the public, but the tower and house are not.
The lighthouse sits inside a military base. You will need ID to enter the base.
Latitude/Longitude: 37.00176, -76.30644
Nearest Address: 99 Fenwick Rd, Hampton, VA
- From Norfolk take I-64W.
- Take exit 268 and head east on S. Mallory St.
- In about 0.3 miles turn right onto E. Mellen St.
- Continue on E. Mellen St for 0.7 miles,when it turns into Ingalls Rd.
- Pass through the gate onto the grounds of the fort and continue on Ingalls Rd. for about another 0.7 miles then turn left on Fenwick Rd.
- The lighthouse will be about 0.3 miles on the left (parking on the right).
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