didn't get close to the lighthouse. The two photos below were
taken with a zoom lens. I was severely disappointed. There
were a couple "private" beaches which may have been closer but were
closed to the public. There was NOTHING else to do up there.
It's a rural community. There is a small quaint "downtown" with a
fruit market on the weekends, and a couple cute little shops and a
little lunch place to each. Totally small community. Below
is a few excerpts about the lighthouse take from it's official page:
The fixed beacon at Cape Henry marked the entrance to the bay, and by
1802, the Old Point Comfort light was completed to help guide ships more
safely into the busy ports of Hampton Roads. Ships traveling North
towards Baltimore or Annapolis, however, had to navigate a course
without the aid of lighted beacons. Enveloped by the darkness of a
stormy night they faced mile upon mile of deadly shoals hidden just
below the surface. Mariners complained vigorously and Congress responded
with appropriations to build a third lighthouse at the tip of the New
Point Comfort peninsula in Mathews County,
1802 Elzy Burroughs had just completed building the Old Point Comfort
lighthouse and was aware of the need to build another to the North.
The proposal stated:
"The light house to be of hewn faced stones; the form to be octagon. The
foundation to be sunk 4 feet below the surface of the ground, or
whatever greater depth may be sufficient to render the whole perfectly
secure from the commencement of the foundation to the bottom of the
water table" . . .
He continues in
elaborate detail explaining how the tower would be 50 feet in height,
tapering from a diameter of 20 feet at the base to 12 feet at its top.
The walls were to diminish in thickness from 5 feet to 2 feet
respectively. A final note at the end - "I agree also to put down four
stones for landmarks lettered U. S. to designate the boundaries of the
public land, and to paint the lantern with three coats at my own cost
without any additional charge," is a testament to his character and
dedication to the project.
With $150.00 dollars for land and $8,500.00 for construction Burroughs
set out in the spring of 1802 to build his lighthouse.
New Point Comfort is a narrow finger peninsula with soft sandy beaches
to the East, an impenetrable forest in the middle, and a large salt
marsh to the the West.
January 17, 1805 the 63 foot Lighthouse was completed and lit. The first
lantern was an octagon cylinder 6 1/2 feet in diameter and stood 8'
tall. Each lamp was powered by burning fish, sperm whale, or lard oil.
The beacon could be seen up to 12 miles.
President Thomas Jefferson personally appointed Elzy Burroughs to be the
first keeper of the light, and he remained there for ten more years.
Since the lighthouse was built, it has steadfastly withstood the
relentless forces of the wind and waves. The sandy beaches on which it
stands have not held up as well. In 1847, a succession of strong
Nor'easters began to carve out an inlet in the beach near the
lighthouse. By 1852 the tip of the peninsula was cut off by the sea and
the lighthouse and dwelling now stood on a new island.
IDuring the Civil War the lighthouse was damaged and made inoperative by
Confederate guerrillas in an attempt to disrupt Union shipping on the
August 23, 1933 a great storm descended over the Chesapeake Bay. The
roaring tide surged nine feet above its usual height drowning the shores
of the tiny island.The giant seas reached 12 feet at its peak and cut a
break through the beach. Large swaths of sand were carried away in the
raging whitewater. When the fury had passed the larger island had been
torn from the lighthouse. Boats, fishing equipment, and other debris
were scattered on the beaches and trees uprooted or snapped in two. All
wharves and piers throughout Mathew's County were badly damaged or
completely carried away. Storm waters rushed far inland reaching depths
of 4 feet in the streets around Mathews Courthouse. At Gloucester Point
the town post office and drug store were completely demolished. Four
feet of water stood in the lobby of the Robbins Hotel. Locations along
the Atlantic Coast and Chesapeake Bay incurred epic destruction from
this hurricane costing tens of millions of dollars in repair.
days later on September 16, another mighty tempest passed just offshore
the Virginia Coast. New Point Comfort was again pummeled by the raging
seas. Winds rose to 87 mph at Cape Henry, and tides reached 8.3 feet
above mean low water. The combined force of the two storms dramatically
transformed the New Point Comfort beach. Two islands now lay at the end
of the peninsula. The lighthouse sustained severe damage to its
foundation and tower.
1963 the Coast Guard erected an 18 foot four pile structure 1,050 yards
southeast of the lighthouse with a 2.5 second red flashing beacon. The
new New Point Comfort Spit Light marked the shoals more accurately. The
New Point Comfort Lighthouse was then abandoned.