Assateague Light

Nov. 13, 2019

Assateague Light, Assateague Island, Virginia


Lighthouse Name: Assateague Island Light
Location: Southern end of Assateague Island
Date Built: Established in 1833 with present tower built in 1867
Type of Structure: Conical brick tower with read and white stripes;
Height: Tower is 145 with a 154 focal point
Characteristic: Originally a fixed white light with fixed red sector, changed to two white flashes every 5 seconds visible for 19 miles.
Lens: Original lens was an Argand lamp system with 11 lamps.  In 1867 had a first order Fresnel lens with four wicks, now DCB 236. The Fresnel lens was made by Barbier & Fenestre, Paris 1866
Appropriation: $55,000
Automated: 1965
Status: Open June through August, every Friday through Sunday from 9 am to 3 pm; call (757) 336-6117 for information.

Historical Information:

  • The original light was built in 1833 was only 45 feet tall and was not sufficient for coastal needs so in 1859 Congress appropriated funds to build a higher, more effective tower.
  • Work began in 1860 but was suspended during the Civil War.  The current structure was completed and lit in 1867.  The keeper’s quarters were built in 1867.  There were three large sections to house three families with each section including a pantry, kitchen, dining room, living room, three bedrooms, bathroom, and large closet.
  • In 1891 an oil house was added.
  • In 1910 a two story concrete keeper’s dwelling was built.
  • In 1933 the lens was powered by electricity from a generator and the characteristic changed from fixed white to flashing.
  • In 1963 when electric power lines finally reached the Island a Directional Coded Beacon was installed.
  • In 1969 the red brick tower was painted in horizontal red and white stripes.
  • In 1970 the DCB was replaced by a light that consisted of two large drums each with a 1000 watt bulb.  The characteristic became a double flash every five seconds.
  • In June 2004, the property was transferred to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000; the Chincoteague Natural History Association helps maintain the lighthouse and provide tours.
  • First order lens is currently on display in the Oyster and Maritime Museum in Chincoteague.

Keepers: David Watson, Tom Moore, Frank Jones, Samuel Quillen, Edgar Hopkins, John Anderton, Walter Wescott, William Collins

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