There are two lighthouses at Cape Henry in Virginia, marking the south side of the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay. The older of the two lighthouses was built in 1792, and it was the first federally funded public works project of the newly formed United States government. It was authorized by President George Washington and overseen by Alexander Hamilton, secretary of the Treasury. The sandstone tower stands 92 feet tall.
A new, taller lighthouse was built in 1881 to replace the original one, which remained standing. The New Cape Henry Lighthouse, built of cast iron, is 163 feet tall and stands about 350 feet from the old structure. Since 1930, the Old Cape Henry Lighthouse has been owned and operated by Preservation Virginia. Rachel Balderson is the site coordinator for Old Cape Henry Lighthouse.
Also in this episode, host Jeremy D’Entremont and co-host Michelle Jewell Shaw read excerpts from Jeremy’s article Lighthouse Keeper Wars, from the latest edition of the U.S. Lighthouse Society’s quarterly journal, The Keeper’s Log. Over the years, at the light stations that had multiple keepers, most got along just fine with each other. There were, however, some notable exceptions, as you will hear.
Jeremy D’Entremont is the author of more than 20 books and hundreds of articles on lighthouses and maritime history. He is the president and historian for the American Lighthouse Foundation and founder of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses, and he has lectured and narrated cruises throughout the Northeast and in other regions. He is also the producer and host of the U.S. Lighthouse Society podcast, “Light Hearted.” He can be emailed at Jeremy@uslhs.org