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Thimble Shoal Light

Hampton Roads, VA, cir. 1914
Thimble Shoals Light Thimble Shoals is the name of two bars bordering the channel into Hampton Roads, VA. In the early 1800s a lightship was used to mark this important commercial channel. It was replaced in 1872 by a screwpile lighthouse reinforced to withstand the ice and conditions of this particularly exposed location. This first lighthouse, was destroyed by fire in 1880. The screwpiles were found to be intact, so a new house was transported from Lazaretto Depot and the light was back in commission 3 months later. However, this light seemed jinxed. In 1891 it was rammed by a steamer, in 1898 again by a coal barge, then in 1909 a schooner in tow broke free, and repeatedly rammed the light badly damaging the pilings, smashing the cottage, and upsetting a wood stove that burned the structure to the water. A much more sturdy caisson design was decided upon for the replacement light which was completed in 1914 not far from the location of the earlier, ill-fated screwpile. At least two workers died during its construction. This three-story cast iron tower stands 55 feet above the water and is one of only two caisson lights on the Bay that still have their first gallery roof. The light was automated in 1964. In 2005 it was put up for auction under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act and purchased by a private citizen, although the US Coast Guard still maintains the lamp as an active aid to navigation.


Location: 37.0146 N, 76.2399 W
Date Built: Current structure commissioned 1914
Type of Structure: Caisson with cylindrical iron dwelling / tower
Height: 55 feet above mean high water
Characteristics: Flashing white
Foghorn: Yes
Range: 20 miles
Status: Standing and Active
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