Old Point Comfort Lighthouse

Sept. 24, 2019

Old Point Comfort Lighthouse, Fort Monroe, Chesapeake Bay, Hampton, Virginia

Built in 1803.


Lighthouse Name: Old Point Comfort Light
Location:  Entrance to Hampton Roads Harbor, Chesapeake Bay; nearest Town/City is Fort Monroe, VA
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
Appropriation:  $1,500 in 1800, a year later another $3,500 was added to the original appropriation
Status:  Still operational

Historical Information:

  • 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.

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