New Point Comfort Lighthouse

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No ticket or pamphlet

 

September 16th, 2006

 New Point Comfort Lighthouse Mathews County VA

 

We 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,

In 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.

On 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 Chesapeake.

In 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.

24 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.

In 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.

 

 

Left to Right: 1) One clawed crab 2) Zoomed view of the New Point Lighthouse 3) New Point Comfort Lighthouse 4) the closest I got to a lighthouse... a bank shaped like one!  5) The actual distance from the walkway...very far!

 

Left to Right: 1) Long view of walk 2) end of the Walk 3) View OFF the walk (view of the marshes) 4) Whole walk

 

 Informative or interesting links:

Lighthouses

Virginia Lighthouses

My Bodie Island Lighthouse Page

My Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Page

My Old Point Comfort Lighthouse Page

My New Cape Henry Lighthouse Page

My Wolftrap Lightship Page

Wolftrap Lightship specs and photo

New Point Comfort Lighthouse Specs and photo

 


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