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Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Cape Henry History Lesson!

When I was headed out of Virginia Beach, I made a mandatory stop at Fort Story, to view the two historic lighthouses that stand regally at the edge of the Chesapeake Bay.

I sent a live iphone-o-gram while standing at the top, showing the view, but didn’t get around to posting the rest of the pictures of my tour.

I found it so fascinating, the whole history behind the site, as well as the site itself. I admit to being a history nut. I remember classmates groaning over facts and names and dates and places revealed through our history books, but these were captivating stories to me. These things really happened. These people were REAL. And I’m still drawn to history today, wanting to touch these places they touched, capture the views that they saw, just be a part of it all.

I thought of how best to present this --- and I thought it would be fun if I inserted MY pictures into the history lesson given by Preservation Virginia. The photographs are mine. The words are theirs. Let’s see if we can make history more interesting, shall we?

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Today, Cape Henry Lighthouse silently guards the entry way into the Chesapeake Bay. Standing near the spot where in 1607 Captain Newport raised a cross to offer thanks for their safe crossing of the Atlantic, the Lighthouse is opened to the public on a seasonal schedule.

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The architectural integrity of the tower is representative of one of John McComb's best and most important constructions. The Light also symbolizes the first bold steps the nation's new government took to fulfill its obligations to its people. With the construction of the Cape Henry Lighthouse, the waters of the Chesapeake Bay became navigable and safe ensuring steady trade and commerce on the Virginia and Maryland coasts.

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There had been a need for a lighthouse since before the Revolution. The Colony of Virginia and then the state of Virginia could never raise the funds needed to build the structure. By November 1789, the Virginia General Assembly provided conveyance of the land "lying and being in the County of Princess Anne at the place commonly called the head land of Cape Henry" to the new government "for the purpose of building a lighthouse." Alexander Hamilton contracted with John McComb, Jr. of New York on 31 March 1791. McComb had been the designer of the Government House, the planned residence for the President, in New York City.

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The contract called for an octagonal structure with three windows in the east and four windows in the west rising 72 feet from the water table to the top of the stone work. The agreement also stipulated the design and construction of a two story house to be a residence for the keeper and for safe storage of the oil to be used for the light. McComb was to furnish all materials for each structure.

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((I was thrilled to know this was the ORIGINAL door!!))

In early October, 1792, George Washington renewed his interest in the lighthouse and requested a list of applicants for the keeper. After review, Laban Goffigan, probably of Norfolk, became the first keeper to light the fish oil burning lamps of Cape Henry Lighthouse in late October. The new government completed its first federal work project and fulfilled its obligation to the sea travelers of the Virginia coast. The final cost of $17,700 exceeded the first estimate by $2,500.

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((Isn't the light through this door frame magical?!))

Over the years repairs and replacements to the lighthouse had to be made. During the Civil War, Confederate troops damaged the light so to render the Lighthouse useless for its enemies. However by 1863, Union troops repaired the equipment and used it to navigate the waters of the Chesapeake Bay.

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During a routine inspection in 1872 questions arose concerning the stability and safety of the lighthouse. Large cracks in the original masonry had developed in six of the eight faces. The report recommended the lighthouse be closed. Though immediate action did not follow, an appropriation of $75,000 on 10 June 1878 dedicated monies to erect a new lighthouse 350 feet southeast of the old. Jay D. Edwards, last keeper of the old and first to keep the new, lighted the new lantern on 15 December 1881.

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Cape Henry Lighthouse continued to be a day marker for navigation. After decommissioning, authorities generally tore down lighthouses. However Cape Henry became a landmark, recognized for its historical significance as well as its architectural. On 29 April 1896, members of Preservation Virginia (formerly the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities) travelled from Richmond to place a tablet on the tower marking the first landing of the English colonists on Virginia's shores.

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Preservation Virginia maintained its interest in the lighthouse. By an act of Congress on 18 June 1930 the old tower and 1.77 acres of ground were deeded to Preservation Virginia to preserve the light and make it available to the public.

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Today, Preservation Virginia opens the Cape Henry Lighthouse to the public during the spring, summer and fall. Reconstructed after damage caused by Hurricane Barbara in 1953, the lantern is now constructed of bronze and copper. There are eight four by six sash windows on each face.

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Within view of Cape Henry Lighthouse is its 1881 replacement. The new Cape Henry Lighthouse is equipped with electrical and mechanical systems which still guides sea traffic safely into the harbor. Further down the coast the Harbor Pilot Control Tower, a modern electronic station further aids the navigational traffic. From this point, officials track ships entering the Norfolk harbor.

**End History Lesson!**

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I continued my walk to take in some of the other tourist spots --- this boardwalk lead to a beautiful overlook of the Chesapeake. It was a Thursday morning, and I was the only one around ---

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Just me, some very puffy clouds, a wide watery bay ---and a few select cargo ships waiting their turn to cross through the channel ---

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And one more random fact to clog your brain --- LOL!

21 comments:

  1. Anonymous4:09 PM EDT

    Wow, awesome pictures. Thank you!

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  2. Hi Bonnie...

    First time to visit your site,really love it.. Thanks for all you do for the quilting community. I'm building my first site and you have given me some wonderful ideas. Love all thee bright vibrant colours...

    Thanks again

    Tommy

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  3. Hi Bonnie...

    First time to visit your site,really love it.. Thanks for all you do for the quilting community. I'm building my first site and you have given me some wonderful ideas. Love all thee bright vibrant colours...

    Thanks again

    Tommy

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  4. Bonnie, thanks for the pictures and history lessons. If you ever get to Jupiter, Fl (use to live there) they have a beautiful red lighthouse with fantastic views of the ocean and inland.

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  5. Anonymous4:29 PM EDT

    It is so serene there. We did our family Christmas picture there when the boys were younger.

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  6. Thank you fr the history lesson !! Hope to one day visit Vigina,NC and SC I think it would be so nice to o so.

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  7. Your photo essay is awesome, Bonnie, just like being there! I love light houses, but we don't hvae any here in the Wild West. Thanks for the armchair tour :)

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  8. Looks so neat. Just one question....will this be on the final?
    Just kidding, I really enjoyed the history.

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  9. Love the history of lighthouses! Your blog is always the first thing I read each morning! My son and family lives in Fuquay Varina, NC!

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  10. Fascinating! Thanks for sharing. I love history and enjoy it more through your adventures than a book!

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  11. Anonymous6:12 PM EDT

    YOU, my dear, are something else. I appreciate the history lessons I have had from you. You pictures vibrant and details the best. Thank you very much.
    Have a safe trip.
    Maryella

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  12. What a great tour! I felt like I was there! And I love that you read all the signs....I do, too! Drives everyone else crazy, but I like to learn about all that history when I visit somewhere. It makes it real, and I imagine what life must have been like back then. What hardships they endured, and how easy we have it now. The history of place brings all that into perspective.

    Thanks for the tour......you're awesome, Bonnie!

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  13. I love the lighthouses!! Your pictures are great! Are you seeing a difference with the new phone? You could write a book (in your spare time) of all the sights you find in your travels! thanks for sharing.

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  14. Thanks Bonnie... nice to know that people still care about the history around them! Some things I just have to do vicariously! LoL
    djcogdill@q.com

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  15. Thanks for the tour and pictures...I would LOVE to be able to spend time viditing those places too! Have always loved history.

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  16. Thanks for the tour and pictures...I would LOVE to be able to spend time viditing those places too! Have always loved history.

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  17. Thanks for the tour and pictures...I would LOVE to be able to spend time viditing those places too! Have always loved history.

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  18. Thanks for the tour and pictures...I would LOVE to be able to spend time viditing those places too! Have always loved history.

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  19. Love it! Thank you so much for this-I don't travel much, but I get to live vicariously through your lovely blog. So, you've been the best quilt teacher I've never met, and the best tourguide I've never gone with!

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  20. WOW ! Bonnie thank you for sharing. I too am a history nut.

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  21. Thank you for your excellent post about our lovely Virginia Beach. By the way, I voted for you as best teacher, best designer and best author...in other words, best of everything for which you had been nominated.

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