Former Hampton Roads Lighthouses

and lightships

This list contains former lighthouses and lightships once located in the Elizabeth River, Hampton Roads harbor, and the lower Chesapeake Bay.

Hospital Point | Lamberts Point | Craney Island | Nansemond River
Bush Bluff | Tail of the Horseshoe | 35 Foot Channel | Willoughby Spit

Hospital Point Light (ca. 1900)
Once located on a dock at the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth. It was only a small lantern on a post with a daymark.

Lamberts Point Lighthouse (1872 - 1892)
Once located on the shore of the Elizabeth River in Norfolk. It was completed in May, 1872. It was a brown house built on five piles (six were planned). The square screwpile foundation settled unevenly and the lighthouse sat for years at a crazy tilt. More piles were driven and a dock (Pier #4) was built around the house, extending from shore in an effort to stabilize the structure. The light became useless to navigators because of increasing encroachment by coal piers and warehouses. It was finally extinguished December 31, 1892 because the foundation was still settling unevenly. In 1901, it was used as a fog signal station and remained such for a decade until the building finally collapsed. The pier that it sat on no longer exists. Green buoy #25 is somewhat near the site.

Craney Island Lighthouse (1859 - 1884, 1884 - 1936)
Once located just offshore at the former entrance to the Elizabeth River. (The river entrance moved north as a result of the Army Corps of Engineers enlargement of Craney Island using dredged silt from the Elizabeth River channel). A lightship was stationed here beginning in 1820 - the first permanent lightship station in the U.S. The ship was originally stationed nearby at Willoughby Spit. In 1859 it was replaced by a square-shaped screwpile lighthouse. It was damaged by Confederates in 1861. The lighthouse became leaky and decayed and was replaced in 1884 by a hexagonal lighthouse, partially assembled at the Lazaretto Depot in Maryland. This lighthouse survived until the mid 1930s when it was replaced by a simple light on the same screwpile foundation. Nothing of this light remains today. However, red buoy #20 is next to the site.

Nansemond River Lighthouse (1878 - 1935)
Once located near Pig Point on the eastern side of the entrance to the Nansemond River in Suffolk (at Tidewater Community College - Portsmouth Campus). A white hexagonal woodpile lighthouse was built here in 1878. It was 36 feet high and had a small sixth-order Fresnel lens. It featured a fixed white light and a fog bell. The cottage was assembled at the Lazaretto Depot in Maryland. Some parts of the lighthouse came from the former Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse in North Carolina. The lens was replaced in 1899 with a fifth-order lens. In 1935, the superstructure was torn down and an automated light on a steel skeleton tower was erected on the old foundation. Nothing remains today. It was located offshore from the present-day fishing pier, halfway between the visible green marker #5 and the row of stakes that can be seen extending out into the harbor.

Bush Bluff Lightship (1891 - 1918)
Once located about one mile north of Craney Island Lighthouse. Three lightships served at this station, marking the approaches to Norfolk and Portsmouth. A lighted buoy was placed in 1918 after the station was discontinued. The site may have been near Tanner Point at Norfolk International Terminals at the entrance to the Lafayette River. (According to my research, the land feature of which the vessel gets its name has also been spelled "Bushy Bluff" and "Boushs Bluff").

Tail of the Horseshoe Lightship (1900 - 1922)
Once located halfway between Thimble Shoal Lighthouse and the Chesapeake Channel (near Trestle B of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel). Two lightships served here. The first for only the first year. That ship was later sunk by a German U-boat while serving off the coast of North Carolina. Because of the long name, the ships were simply called "Tail of Shoe". A red and white "HC" buoy is located in this area.

35-Foot Channel Lightship (1908 - 1919)
Once located at the junction of the York River Channel and the York Spit, or Chesapeake Channel. Only one ship served here. That ship previously served at Winter Quarter Shoal off Assateague Island (Maryland). The station was replaced with a lighted whistle bouy in 1919. This area is now marked with a lighted green "CY" buoy.

Willoughby Spit Lightship (1820, 1867 - 1869?)
Once located just offshore from the northern end of the small penninsula of the same name. The channel runs between Thimble Shoal and Willoughby Bank. This was the first lightship station in the U.S. The station was discontinued because the seas were too rough for the ship to handle. The ship moved to Craney Island. Another ship later served here, this one coming from Upper Cedar Point.


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