A project to stabilize the top of the dune and the sandstone base of the original Cape Henry Lighthouse is scheduled to begin construction after Labor Day. The work will result in protection of the base from the eroding effects of wind and rain and will significantly improve the pedestrian area surrounding the lighthouse.
The $1.1 million project is designed to increase the height of the top of the dune to cover the soft Aquia sandstone base as it originally did when the lighthouse was constructed. The dune will then be capped in place with a concrete slab to prevent the natural erosion that occurs from the constant exposure to ocean winds and strong storms. Brick pavers will provide a finished surface to the pedestrian plaza, which will be surrounded by a metal observation railing. Near the lighthouse base will be a seat wall where visitors may rest before and after climbing. New steps will also be constructed for access into the tower.
An artist rendering of the Cape Henry Lighthouse illustrating what the area around its base will look like when the stabilization project is completed.
Construction is scheduled to begin in September and is expected to be completed in 180 days. Conquest USA, Inc. has been awarded the contract. The project will be managed by the Virginia Beach Public Works Department and the architecture, engineering and design firm of Clark Nexsen.
The primary sources of project funds are federal transportation enhancement grant programs. Four grants totaling $845,000 are being used for the stabilization and improvements. Preservation Virginia, a private, non-profit and historic preservation leader based in Richmond, and the City of Virginia Beach are providing the required matching funds. Preservation Virginia has owned the Cape Henry Lighthouse since 1930 and oversees operations, tours and maintenance. The lighthouse is the centerpiece in Virginia Beach’s city seal.
The Cape Henry Lighthouse, the first federally funded public works project in the country, was constructed in 1792. It was retired after nearly a century of service when a second tower was commissioned. The Cape Henry Lighthouse is a National Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Although visitors will not be able to climb the tower during construction, Preservation Virginia is offering guided walking tours that will explore more than 400 years of history of the Cape Henry Historic Site. Stops on the tour will include the Cape Henry Memorial National Park and the new Cape Henry Lighthouse built in 1881. A mini-bus shuttle service will begin in October to transport visitors from Fort Story Gate 8 to the historic area.