Digest>Archives> Sep/Oct 2020

America’s 2nd Tallest Lighthouse Added to Doomsday List

By Timothy Harrison


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As can be seen from this photo taken last year, ...
Photo by: Greg Chapel

The Cape Charles Lighthouse on Smith Island, Virginia has now been added to the Lighthouse Digest Doomsday List of Endangered Lighthouses.

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Cape Charles Lighthouse as it appeared about 20 ...

In 2013, the beacon in the lantern of the 191-foot-tall Cape Charles Lighthouse failed and the Coast Guard never repaired it. In 2019, the Cape Charles Lighthouse simply disappeared off the official light list.

Barring some unforeseen issues, it is likely that the Coast Guard will declare the lighthouse as excess property to be disposed of by the General Services Administration, under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act. However, because the lighthouse is surrounded by land owned by the Nature Conservancy, it is highly unlikely that anyone would want the lighthouse. Additionally, it is highly improbable that the Nature Conservancy would want to take on the responsibility of acquiring, restoring, and maintaining such a financially large burden.

The skeletal Cape Charles Lighthouse was built in 1895 to replace an earlier 150-foot conical tower that had been built in 1864, which had replaced a 60-foot stone tower built in 1828.

The historic Cape Charles Lighthouse now sits abandoned to the elements; it’s a truly despicable way to honor the men and women who once lived there, often in hardship, dedicating their lives to the saving of others.

This story appeared in the Sep/Oct 2020 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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