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Lighthouses on the Chesapeake Bay
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Chesapeake Bay -
Our History and Our Future
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Chesapeake Bay Lighthouses

In 1718 Alexander Spotswood, the colonial governor of Virginia, complained of the dangers of navigating Cape Henry at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, and petitioned the British Board of Trade for a lighthouse. His plea was rejected.

Safe access to the Chesapeake Bay soon became so vital, however, that construction of the Cape Henry Lighthouse was specified in the 1789 act of Congress providing for a system of aids to navigation.

In the early federal period both wooden and masonry tower lighthouses were constructed on the Bay. The "screwpile" design, invented in England to facilitate the construction of lighthouses on a soft or shifting bottom, soon demonstrated its advantages and was replicated across the Bay.

The caisson-type lighthouse, a new design based on cast-iron technology, appeared on the Chesapeake Bay in the 1890s, and proved practical and inexpensive to maintain. All twelve caisson lighthouses on the Bay now are fully automated and continue to operate.


 

 

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