The New Point Comfort Lighthouse stands guard on the Chesapeake Bay at the southeastern tip of Mathews County, Virginia, warning mariners of the shallow shoals that surround it. The 63-foot sandstone tower was first illuminated on January 17, 1805, and is the third oldest lighthouse on the Chesapeake Bay. Over the past 197-years the forces of the wind and sea have dramatically changed the sandy peninsula on which the lighthouse was built. In 1933, two mighty hurricanes finally severed it from the mainland. Since then the peninsula has continued to be "rolled back" by the waves and the lighthouse now stands about one half mile from shore on a tiny rip-rap island.
In 1963 it was deactivated by the U.S. Coast Guard and replaced with a more modern and efficient red flashing structure called New Point Comfort Spit Light.
The lighthouse was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and acquired by Mathews County in 1975. Through the efforts of the New Point Lighthouse Lantern Committee of Mathews County, the lighthouse was refitted with a solar powered fixed beacon on December 12, 1999. Though it no longer serves as a navigational marker, the proud sentinel remains the friend of local residents, fishermen, sailors, and boating enthusiast alike.
Throughout its long
history the lighthouse has been threatened from its perilous location
at the edge of the Chesapeake Bay. As early as 1815, Chas. K. Mallory,
Collector of Customs from Norfolk, Virginia wrote after visiting
" It is with much regret I have to add that I found the sand around
the base of the Light House at New Point Comfort had washed away so much
during the recent severe gales as imminently to endanger the safety of
that building, the water every full tide entirely reaching it. Something
must be done, & that without delay, to secure the foundation, which
in some places is quite bare, or I seriously apprehend it will not stand
the winter out."
Today the Lighthouse once again needs our help. There are some immediate maintenance concerns as well as long term restoration, preservation, and maintenance issues to be addressed. The Mathews County Historical Society is leading the latest effort to preserve and maintain the Lighthouse. The Mathews County Board of Supervisors named the Society as its agent to create a five-year Master Plan for the preservation, maintenance, and management of the lighthouse. The New Point Comfort Lighthouse Preservation Task Force was formed in June, 2001 to develop a master plan for preserving the lighthouse and making it accessible to the public.
Donations can be sent to:
Because of current safety concerns the lighthouse is no longer open to public visitation. Mathews County, however, constructed an observation walkway on the New Point Comfort peninsula at the southern end of Route 600 to provide a way for visitors to view it.
To give visitors a better understanding of the New Point Comfort history and natural habitat, the Virginia Coastal Program supplied funding to The Nature Conservancy to design and construct a series of informational signs. They can be viewed as you walk along the boardwalk and observation deck. These signs make any visit more rewarding by providing descriptions of nearby plants, animals, as well as the history of the lighthouse and surrounding area.
The New Point Comfort Lighthouse Restoration Committee Report, July 1981, Captain Refo, USN; John Handy; Benjamin Thompson; The Hollerith Family.
Mathews County Historical Society - www.rootsweb.com/~vamchs/
New Point Comfort Light Station Historical Report, December, 2001, Candace Clifford. Commissioned by the New Point Comfort Preservation Task Force.
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