Chris J LeBlanc Photography - Lighthouses
Providing details and historical information of lighthouse pictures taken during my travels
Old Point Comfort Lighthouse
Fort Monroe, Virginia
© 2012 - Chris J LeBlanc Photographer
Location: Located just west of the red brick walls of Fort Monroe, marking the entrance to Hampton Roads.
Latitude: N 37.00176
Longitude: W 76.30644
Year Constructed: 1802 (Elzy Burroughs). Active
Tower Height: 58 feet Focal Plane: 54 feet
Early Federal octagonal sandstone tower with lantern and gallery, 4th order Fresnel lens (installed in the 1890s). The lighthouse is painted white with green trim; the lantern is painted green with a red roof.
- Date Built: Built in 1774; present tower built in 1802 built by Elzy Burroughs
- Type of Structure: White octagonal pyramidal sandstone tower with four large windows providing light to the spiral stone steps that lead to an iron ladder and trap door to the entrance to the lens chamber and a separate Keeper’s house
- Height: 58 feet, height of focal point is 54 feet
- Characteristics: Two red flasher every 12 seconds
- Lens: Eleven oil lantern with eleven fourteen-inch red and green reflector lanterns visible for fourteen miles on a clear day was replaced in 1857 with fourth order Fresnel lens and was automated in 1972
- Foghorn: 1855 a fog bell tower was built with a fog bell, 40 inches in diameter and 36 inches in height and audible for 3 miles was added to the station with an appropriation of $6,000
- Status: Still operational
- Second oldest lighthouse on the Chesapeake Bay.
- It is suggested that Indians used wood fires on the point to act as navigational aids for Spanish ships during the 16th Century.
- It is known that in 1775 John Dams received the sum of 20 pound annually for showing a light there.
- During the War of 1812 the British captured the fort and used the lighthouse as an observation post.
- Keeper’s house was built in 1823; in 1891 a new keeper’s dwelling was built to replace the house.
- Lighthouse is owned and maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard; the Keeper’s house is owned and maintained by the U.S. Army and is residence for Fort Monroe’s Command Sergeant Major.
- Listed on the National Register of Historic Places
Old Point Comfort Lighthouse marks the entrance to historic Hampton Roads, an important harbor situated at the mouths of the James, Nansemond and Elizabeth Rivers, and stands on ground which has seen many a fort constructed nearby to defend this import waterway. The tower’s present neighbor, the Civil-War era Fort Monroe, was preceded by colonial Fort George, which in turn was probably preceded by an even earlier fortification. A navigational beacon on Old Point Comfort was active as early as 1775 when John Dams, caretaker of the ruins at Fort George, was paid an annual supplement of 20 pounds to tend a light there.
While most east coast lighthouses were damaged, destroyed or at least put out of commission during the Civil War, the tower at Old Point Comfort remained undisturbed during the conflict as Fort Monroe remained under Union control throughout the war. President Lincoln once landed at the wharf to Fort Monroe; he had come to witness the Union troops take Norfolk. The legendary battle of the first ironclads, the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia, occurred just offshore in Hampton Roads. Finally at the end of the war Confederate President Jefferson Davis was imprisoned in an artillery room behind the light station.
Old Point Comfort Lighthouse Links
Historic Postcard of the Old Point Comfort Lighthouse from 1918
Historic Postcard of the Old Point Comfort Lighthouse from 1920