Craney Island Light

July 23, 2019

Craney Island Light, Craney Island, mouth of the Elizabeth River, Virginia

Screwpile style lighthouse.


Lighthouse Name: Craney Island Light
Location: near entrance to Elizabeth River in Virginia
Date Built: 1859
Type of Structure: square screwpile structure
Height: 34’ above mean high water
Lens: 5th Order
Characteristic: Flashing white every 5 seconds.
Foghorn: Aisler machine
Status: Original structure dismantled, now a light sits on a skeletal structure placed on original foundation.

Historical Information:

  • In 1820 Craney Island was the first permanent lightship site in the nation. She had a fixed white light and her name was printed on the side of her hull.
  • In 1859 the lightship was replaced by a square screwpile lighthouse.
  • In 1861 the light was damaged by Confederate soldiers so by 1863 the light was badly in need of repairs, so the light was replaced with a hexagonal light constructed at the Lazaretto Depot in Baltimore.
  • When the superstructure of this lighthouse was decaying, it was replaced again in 1884 by a hexagonal structure, which lasted into the 1930’s.
  • In 1891 repairs were made to replace gallery posts damaged when the light was hit by a passing vessel.
  • Site is now lighted by a simple light apparatus built on the old screwpile foundation.

The above was researched and drafted by William Simms, a Chesapeake Chapter of the U.S. Light House Society volunteer.