Back River Light

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Back River Light
Undated photograph of Back River Light, Virginia (USCG)
Back River Light is located in Virginia
Back River Light
Location 1 nmi (1.9 km; 1.2 mi) south of the mouth of the Back River on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay
Coordinates 37°05′14″N 76°16′11″W / 37.0872°N 76.2698°W / 37.0872; -76.2698Coordinates: 37°05′14″N 76°16′11″W / 37.0872°N 76.2698°W / 37.0872; -76.2698
Year first lit 1829
Automated 1915
Deactivated 1936
Construction brick/masonry
Tower shape conical tower
Height 30 feet (9.1 m)
Characteristic continuous revolving white with a 90 second interval

The Back River Light, also known as the Grandview Light, was a lighthouse south of the mouth of the Back River on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, several miles north of Fort Monroe near Hampton, Virginia. Plagued by erosion for most of its existence, it was destroyed in 1956 by Hurricane Flossy.

Photograph of Back River Lighthouse site taken on May 22, 2013


This lighthouse constructed in 1829 by Winslow Lewis of Boston, was a 30-foot (9.1 m) conical masonry tower similar to others further up the bay. A hint of its coming travails was given by the need for a 144-foot (44 m) long footbridge to carry the keeper over the marshy land between the tower and his house. Ten oil lamps and ten parabolic reflectors fourteen inches in diameter, coated with pure silver, were initially installed. When placed in service, the light’s ‘characteristic’ was described as “continuous revolving white with a 90 second interval. As technology improved it later housed a Fresnel lens.

The light was damaged by Confederate raiders in 1862, but was back in service the following year. But the remainder of the century saw a continuing battle against erosion, and riprap was laid around the base of the tower several times between 1868 and 1888. In 1894 a second story was added to the keeper's house, but this served only until 1914, when the house facing destruction due to beach erosion was demolished, with the light being automated the following year. The Back River Light was discontinued in 1936. Twenty years later the abandoned tower, by then in disrepair and completely surrounded by water due to erosion, collapsed during Hurricane Flossy, leaving only a pile of rubble to mark the spot.