Back River Light (Grandview Light)

Nov. 13, 2019

Back River Light (Grandview Light), Back River, Chesapeake Bay, Virginia


Lighthouse Name: Back River Light (also known as Grandview Light)
Location: 6 miles north of Old Point Comfort, Chesapeake Bay, entrance to Back River; nearest Town/City is Hampton, Virginia
Date Built: 1829
Type of Structure: White-washed conical brick tower
Height: 30 feet
Lens: Ten oil lamps and ten parabolic reflectors
Characteristics: revolving white 1’ 30” interval
Automated: 1915
Foghorn: None noted in records
Appropriation: $4,250.00
Status: No longer standing

Historical Information:

  • The white-washed conical brick tower standing on four acres of land purchased for $100.00 with beach in front and marsh behind. An elevated 144 feet footbridge over the marsh connected the tower to the keeper’s home built by Winslow Lewis of Boston. A front porch was added for the first keeper costing $15.00.
  • The tower specification from the June 18, 1829 newspaper: The lighthouse foundation was to be sunk at least three feet deep necessary to secure the fabric and lined with good lime mortar; base diameter was eighteen feet tapering to nine feet at the top; walls were three feet at the base graduated to twenty inches at the top; the top was arched with an eleven feet in diameter deck that was four inches think; three windows with twelve panes of glass ten by eight inches in the tower; and, a six-foot by three-foot door for the entrance.
  • $750.00 of the construction costs was used for ten oil lamps and ten parabolic reflectors that were fourteen inches and had six ounces of pure silver in each; a new revolving machine with six twenty-one parabolic reflectors and six fountain lamps was installed in 1855.
  • The keeper’s house was a one story brick house thirty-four by twenty feet; chimneys were placed at the ends of the house in lieu of only one in the middle; a stone fourteen by twelve feet kitchen with two windows, one door, and a chimney with a sizeable fireplace and oven complete with an iron door-crane, trammels and hooks; a brick five by four feet out-house with a shingled or painted roof, a front porch and a white picket fen were added.
  • The confederates vandalized and ruined the light in 1862 and put back in operation by 1863. But a worse enemy was the blowing sand and the relentless waves; riprap stone was put around the tower in 1868, 1878, and 1888, with screens added to keep the sand in place in 1881.
  • The keeper’s house was enlarged with a second story addition in 1894 for the keeper’s growing family.
  • The lighthouse was automated in 1915.
  • The keeper’s house was dismantled in 1914 and the lighthouse deactivated in 1936 and destroyed by Hurricane Flossy on September 27, 1956 with only a pile of rocks marking the site.

Keepers: William Jett (1829-1852), R.F. Johnson (?-1915)

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