Cape Henry Lighthouse, Virginia Beach

The Cape Henry Lighthouse is a lighthouse at Cape Henry, the landform marking the southern entrance to Chesapeake Bay in the U.S. state of Virginia. The location has long been important for the large amount of ocean-going shipping traffic for the harbors, its rivers, and shipping headed to ports on the bay. The original lighthouse was the first authorized by the U.S. government, dating from 1792. It was also the first federal construction project under the Constitution, for an original contract amount of $15,200 (an additional $2,500 was required to finish the lighthouse). A second lighthouse was built and completed in 1881 a short distance away after concern arose about the stability of the first. Both towers of the light station were designated a National Historic Landmark in 1970.HistoryThe first work of the new U.S. Federal government, the first Cape Henry lighthouse was built of Aquia and Rappahannock sandstone by John McComb, Jr. and was completed in October, 1792. McComb was one of the architects involved in the construction of New York City Hall and would design other lighthouses. The lighthouse's design was based on the 1767 Cape Henlopen Light. The lighthouse was damaged by Confederate forces during the American Civil War, but was repaired by Union forces in 1863, who depended on the light for navigation. In the 1870s, concerns about the condition and safety of the old Lighthouse at Cape Henry following a lightning strike that caused large cracks in the structure led to the construction of a new, taller, lighthouse at Cape Henry (pictured to the right) in 1881, which stands 350 feet to the northeast of the original tower. The old tower remained standing, used as a daymark and as a basis for triangulation. The lighthouse was fully automated in 1983 and remains in use today.
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Cape Henry Lighthouse Reviews
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  • We has a great time! This was very educational for my son. He asked so many questions. There is so much history to this lighthouse.  more »
  • What a pain in the ... experience just get to the lighthouse. I get it’s on a military base but do they have to be rude. Look as citizens I had no idea all the proof I had to show just to get through ...  more »
  • My sailor son and his girlfriend decided to come Mr. and Mrs. at the beach near this light house. We had explored it earlier in the week and found it to be a very beautiful area. You can go up to the ...  more »
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  • Cape Henry actually has 2 lighthouses. Old and new. Both are nice. If you go, realize that you will be entering a military base. You will need drivers licence, car registration and proof of insurance. They will also search your vehicle.
  • What a wonderful place to visit! I love this lighthouse and all the history! Cute little gift shop
  • It was pretty lame. We had 2 kids with us and weren't even allowed to walk up the stairs of the lighthouse because you need to be 42 inches or taller. Besides that, they charge 8 dollars each if we were allowed. You really can only see the top half of the lighthouse because it's so hidden behind vegetation. The best spot to really enjoy both lighthouses I think is down the street at the memorial Park. You can take a short walk out to the beach, and see both lighthouses on one side and the ocean on the other. Lot of work to get into the base and pretty dissapointing once you get there. I wouldn't make this a priority on your vacation, but if you've got nothing to do it's worth a look on a slow day.
  • Neat lighthouse, fairly steep climb, but a nice view of the area once up top. Unlike some other lighthouses I've been to, Cape Henry's light doesn't allow for a walk outside the light tower once you've reached the top...you're just looking out from the enclosed glass area at the top. Still a great view though. There is a per-person fee to climb the lighthouse, and the gift shop is nice to see. Apparently you can only climb the old lighthouse...the newer lighthouse, located right across the street from the old one, but it doesn't seem that's open for climbing. Like many of the other reviews state, this lighthouse is on an active military base and as such, you will need to show your driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance; as well as having your vehicle searched (open all doors, open hood) in order to be allowed entry to the base. This ultimately was not an issue for us but it caught us off-guard as there is nothing on the lighthouse's web site that provides this information. I was simply following my GPS and when we pulled up to the gate, I was afraid we were going somewhere we shouldn't have been going. The guard at the gate was friendly and said we were in the right place, clearly stated everything that they would need to do for us to get on base, and pointed us in the right direction.
  • This is a beautifully designed lighthouse from back in the day. It was a little hot the day we went so the slight breeze at the top was a little bit cooling. Looking out from the top was breath taking. Seeing the ocean and ships in the distance was gorgeous. when in Virginia Beach, Virginia you must come and visit.

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