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Charlotte, North Carolina
January 18, 2006
In 1774 both the Maryland and Virginia colonies wanted to make the entrance of the Chesapeake Bay with a lighthouse. Cape Henry was selected as the site and workers soon began to pile up stones for use in the construction of the light. Unfortunately along came the Revolutionary War and all public works were stopped. Work did not start again until 1791.
Congress appropriated $24,077 to build the lighthouse. Alexander Hamilton (then Secretary of the State) contacted John McComb to build the light. He had hoped to use the original stone, but over time they had sank in the sand and were unusable. He secured other sandstone and had the projected completed within a year. The 90-foot tower stood for almost a century surviving wars and a number of weather problems. During the Civil War, Confederate troops put out its light. The Union troops, however, had the light returning by 1862.
Around 1870 keepers started to notice cracks in the buildings walls. The Lighthouse Board feared the safety of the building and had the New Cape Henry light built near the old light. Apparently though the boards concerns were unfounded. The 1792 tower stands right along side of the “new” 1881 tower.
The Old Cape Henry is amongst one of the oldest surviving lighthouses in the states. The octagonal shape features a domed copper roof, which resembles a birdcage. The look and the color of the light are also unique. Most houses are a combination or white, black, and or red and are cylindrical-shaped. This one is a more natural color and is similar in appearance to Bald Head, or Old Baldy, light in my home state in NC.
Since 1930 the Association for Virginia Antiquities has owned it. Today you may climb the 200 steps to the top for a bird’s eye of the ocean. Hours are: 10am-5pm (Mar.-Oct.) and 10am –4pm (Nov. –Mar). There is a gift shop on the premises. The lighthouse is closed on major holidays. You can go to www.apva.com for more information. For information on other lighthouses or to buy lighthouse related items please go to www.lighthousedepot.com.
The lighthouses are in Ft. Story about 10 minutes from Virginia Beach. Still an active military post, guests are allowed inside. You will be stopped at the front gates. All guests over 18 must present ID and your car is inspected. You will be issued a pass and there is a parking lot between both houses. You cannot tour the New Care Henry light, but you are allowed to walk around outside and take photographs.
From journal Lovin' Life in Virginia Beach.
July 14, 2002
From journal Virginia Beach
Overland Park, Kansas
May 12, 2002
A short walk up a boardwalk takes you to a platform where you can overlook the beach and the Atlantic Ocean. We like to go around 5:00 to 6:00 in the evening. Frequently you will see dolphins in the ocean just out from this overlook. You will also see pelican flights - anywhere from an occasional single pelican to normally groups of 2 to 6 and occasionally even more pelicans. A very interesting sight is when the fish are in close as the pelicans will feed and it is a real sight to watch these birds find a fish, hover right over it and then to a vertical high speed dive straight into the ocean.
Last year, June 2001, there was a second walk that let you actually walk down onto the beach where you could stroll along and in addition to the dolphins and pelicans, you could find and watch sand crabs.
I do wonder though what has happened to this whole activity now as it is located within the boundaries of Fort Story. I'm thinking that after 9/11 the Gates of the Fort are now manned and while I expect access will still be available, it may be somewhat more restrictive.
If access is still available, it is a very pleasant way to spend an hour or two in the early evening. We always go at least once a week when we visit Virginia Beach.
I can now address the above, what happened due to 9/11. Sort and Sweet, A LOT.
The gates to Fort Story are now manned with guards. Access is still permitted but everyone in the car needs a photo ID for them to see. The guards were very pleasant and courteous making it relatively easy to gain access to the Fort.
The lighthouse is still open to tour. You can also still go to the one lookout point and view but they have made changes along the beach which I won't detail but definitely detract for the view that used to be there. In addition, the walk that permitted access to the beach itself has been closed. So we can now see one freedom that the terrorists took away from us. This place has lost its attraction to us for the moment at least. I'm sure on future trips, if things stay calm with no more terrorists attacks, we'll check it out to see if it is any more open but somehow I doubt we'll see a return to the previous status anytime soon.
I have changed my recommendation from Highly Recommend to only Somewhat Recommend.
From journal Virginia Beach Getaway