Historic Lighthouses of the Chesapeake Bay

Historic Lighthouses

of the Chesapeake Bay


From Maine to the Florida Keys, there are over 350 lighthouses still in operation. From the beautiful Portland Head Light in Maine to the Haunted St. Augustine Light in Florida, people have been fascinated by the history and the romance of lighthouses for years. By day these large structures are a beautiful site to boaters and travelers, while the unique paintings on them also make use as day markers, and by night they provide a beacon to sailors warning of dangerous shoals. With so many beautiful and equally historic lighthouses up and down the East Coast, it is hard to name only a handful as the greatest, so we will focus on the famous lighthouses of the Chesapeake Bay.

1. Old Cape Henry Lighthouse

This lighthouse was contracted in 1791 and was the first Historic Lighthouses of the Chesapeake Baylighthouse ordered and financed by the federal government. The lighthouse was made of sandstone and was left unpainted. It began operation in October of 1792 and is now open to the public all year except for the month of December when the Army Corps decorates it to resemble a Christmas tree. After lightning stuck the Old Cape Henry Lighthouse, construction began on the New Cape Henry Lighthouse just 350 feet away from its predecessor.

2. New Point Comfort LighthouseHistoric Lighthouses of the Chesapeake Bay

This lighthouse is the 3rd oldest on the Chesapeake Bay. It was built in 1805 and commissioned by Thomas Jefferson. This lighthouse served to incoming and outgoing traffic on the Chesapeake Bay. The lighthouse sits at the entrance to the Mobjack Bay.

3. Old Point Comfort Lighthouse

Unlike the Cape Henry lighthouses, the New Point ComfortHistoric Lighthouses of the Chesapeake Bay lighthouse is not a newer version of Old Point Comfort. These are two different locations. Old Point Comfort is located on the grounds of Fort Monroe. It is the second oldest lighthouse on the Chesapeake Bay, and it is owned and maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. The octagonal tower is constructed of sandstone and stands 58 feet tall.

4. Cape Charles LighthouseHistoric Lighthouses of the Chesapeake Bay

The Cape Charles Light was originally built in 1828, but because the height was inadequate, another version was built in 1856. During the Civil War, Confederate raiders destroyed the structure, and yet another was built in 1864. After soil erosion caused that version to crumble, we now see the final Cape Charles Lighthouse today that was built in 1895. The lighthouse is now a steel skeleton tower sitting on Smith Island. It is the tallest lighthouse in Virginia, and the second tallest in the US.

5. Wolf Trap Light

Wolf Trap Light is a Caisson Lighthouse, meaning it rests on a concrete or metal caisson. Wolf Trap is located about seven and a half miles northeast of New Point Comfort Historic Lighthouses of the Chesapeake BayLight. The light marks Wolf Trap Shoal which juts into the bay from Winter Harbor. The Shoal received its name from the grounding of the British naval vessel, the HMS Wolf  in 1691. For years, a lightship was stationed at the spot, and in 1870 a screwpile lighthouse was built. In 1893, ice tore the house from its foundation. In 1894, a wooden caisson was used and topped by a cylinder of cast iron plates. The brick house was then constructed on top of the caisson. The Wolf Trap Light was listed for sale at $249,500, but it is no longer for sale.