The historic Assateague Lighthouse was built in 1867 and is maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. However, the first lighthouse on this site, built by the U.S. Treasury Department in 1833, was a 45 foot-high brick tower that proved inadequate. The present 142 foot-high structure is one of nearly 20 other tall, historic, brick lighthouses still functioning along the Atlantic Coast today.
Sitting on a natural bluff 22 feet above sea level adds to the light's height and visibility. Because of the dynamic movement of the island, the light no longer sits adjacent to the open sea. The southward growth of the island since 1850 has stranded the lighthouse almost 5 miles from the Chincoteague Inlet.
The lighthouse was built because of growing coastal commerce and the alarming number of shipwrecks that were occurring.
The first light was an oil-burning, fixed Fresnel lens, visible for up to 18 miles. This Fresnel lens is now located in the Museum of Chincoteague Island. In 1961, it was replaced by the DCB-36 rotating beacon which is still in use today and is visible for 22 miles. Inside the brick tower, a cast iron staircase leads up to the lens tower.
The lighthouses along the Eastern seaboard each have a unique color pattern and light flash pattern. By day, the broad red stripes over broad white stripes distinguish the Assateague Light and by night the characteristic is the flash pattern of two consecutive flashes every five seconds.
The lighthouse is owned by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and tours of the facility are managed by the Chincoteague Natural History Association.
Here is a short video of the Assateague Lighthouse. Click in the center of the photo to start the video.
Lighthouse Restoration Begins
An effort to stabilize the upper portion of the tower began in August, 2008. The final phase of restoration began in January 2013 and was completed in September 2013. Inquire at the Herbert H. Bateman Educational and Administrative Center or call the CNHA office at (757) 336 - 3696 for information regarding the status of lighthouse tours.
If you wish to make a tax-deductible gift to the Assateague Lighthouse preservation fund, please download and print a CNHA Contribution Form. To download a form in Microsoft Word format (".doc"), click here. To download a form in Adobe format (".pdf"), click here.
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For more information, write to: Chincoteague Natural History Association, P. O. Box 917, Chincoteague, VA 23336 or Contact firstname.lastname@example.org