Cape Henry Lighthouse, the beloved Virginia Beach beacon at the intersection of the Chesapeake and Atlantic, will undergo a $1.1 million restoration to stabilize and preserve the structure.
Mark Reed, Historic Preservation Planner with the City of Virginia Beach’s Department of Planning & Community Development, says the city will be managing the project, and Preservation Virginia, which owns the lighthouse, will also provide financial and planning support. The project will total $1.1 million, including $845,000 in federal grant funds.
Because the dune that serves as the lighthouse’s perch has eroded, “the primary purpose of the project is to raise the height of the dune to cover the somewhat soft Aquia sandstone base,” says Reed. “This is expected to stop (or greatly reduce) the deterioration of the stone base that is currently occurring.” What will be tricky, he notes, is keeping the sand and soil mixture at the dune’s top, given the power of the wind at the exposed location.
Once retaining walls and a concrete slab are in place, brick pavers, granite veneer, a metal railing, and sea grasses will be added. Reed says the steps that go into the lighthouse from the top of the dune will be replaced, and informative signage will be added so visitors can fill up on history before making the climb to the top.
The city expects the project, which will kick off in September, to be completed in six months barring any delays due to winter weather or other issues.
On its website, Preservation Virginia notes that although the lighthouse’s tower will be closed to guests hoping for a climb, its walking tours, special events, and “Daily Dune Talks” (on the ground level) will still be available.
In the end, Reed says that the restoration will make for a safe and enjoyable experience at the National Historic Landmark; “enhanced safety, enhanced aesthetics, new and improved interpretive signs, a nice place to sit and enjoy a beautiful spot.”