Smith Point Lighthouse

Located in the Chesapeake Bay at the entrance to the Potomac River
offshore from Northumberland County

[Smith Point]

The current lighthouse was completed in 1897. It is a square brick tower with a white two-story octagonal dwelling on a cast-iron caisson. It stands 52 feet high. The round antenna points to CG Station Milford Haven to allow the Coast Guard to stay informed of the light's status. Its original fourth-order Fresnel lens was replaced with an airport style beacon and was automated in 1971. Its 10 second flashing 200,000 candlepower beam still serves as an active aid to navigation and has red and white sectors. It also has a horn. It is interesting to note that this light is nearly identical to Wolf Trap. The main difference is the color. The Coast Guard has auctioned off some of Virginia's lighthouses in 2005. This lighthouse was sold at auction to David McNally of Winona, MN for $170,000. Although it is now in private hands, the USCG will continue to maintain the light apparatus.

More images of Smith Point

HISTORY
The first lighthouse was built in 1802, but it was too close to the water's edge and was rebuilt further inland in 1807. It had to be rebuilt again in 1828 another 90 yards further inland. Two lightships have been stationed offshore here since 1821 because the lighthouse proved to be inadequate. One of those ships was destroyed by Confederates. The mainland light was finally discontinued in 1859. On September 9, 1868, a screwpile lighthouse was completed offshore and the lightship was decommissioned. In 1893 the screwpile lighthouse was severely damaged by moving ice. It was torn from its foundation and carried off during another onslaught of ice on February 14, 1895. Another lightship was placed here until the current offshore lighthouse was constructed.

New photos courtesy of LCDR Richard Condit, USCG Group Hampton Roads

HOW TO SEE IT
If you don't have access to a boat, it can be viewed from shore.

2/19/06


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