Cape Henry Lighthouse is Finally Getting Fixed

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Cape Henry LighthouseIt Takes a Village        

This windswept peak continues to make history, albeit of a different kind. The Cape Henry Lighthouse’s long-needed restoration and repair has been one of the longest-gestating public works projects in Virginia Beach history. And now, after 25 years, it looks like—fingers crossed—the completion of much-needed fortifications to this iconic beam-thrower are finally about to happen.  But what a long, strange trip through red tape it’s been.         

“The project saw federal money going to a state program to a city for a privately-owned property,” Preservation Virginia’s Director of Preservation Services Louis Malon says. “Accessing the money became quite a challenge.”         

Last year, Virginia Beach was awarded $160,000 from the Virginia Department of Transportation with the funding provided by the Federal Moving Ahead for Progress (MAP-21). It’s the third such grant awarded to the project through an initiative once called the Transportation Enhancement program.         

The lighthouse, declared a National Historic Landmark in 1966, also sits in a national park housed on an active military base. Malon shakes his head at all of the different agencies, committees and governmental bodies this singular historic repair job has gone through. “I just hoped I would see this happen before I retired.”         

“Me too,” says Mark Reed, who is leaving his position as Virginia Beach’s historic resources coordinator after 26 years. Happily, he says, among his last duties is to get the lighthouse renovations underway. Finally. “I’m trying to get it to the construction phase and to advertise bids. We’re pretty close.” Everyone involved hopes that repairs will begin at the end of this year, after the peak summer months.         

What this light meant to our country’s earliest beginnings—in matters related to defense, travel and commerce—is symbolized by its prominent appearance on the Virginia Beach city logo. “Both functionally and symbolically, it is very important,” Reed says. “The colony of Virginia had identified the placement of a lighthouse at Cape Henry as an essential aid to navigation early in the 18th century but never could pull it off, never could get the funds together.”         

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