Newport News Middle Ground Light

Newport News Middle Ground Light
Newport News Middle Ground Light
Newport news middle ground nps.PNG
1997 photograph of Newport News Middle Ground Light, Virginia (NPS)
Location east of the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel in Hampton Roads
Coordinates 36°56′43″N 76°23′29″W / 36.9452°N 76.3915°W / 36.9452; -76.3915Coordinates: 36°56′43″N 76°23′29″W / 36.9452°N 76.3915°W / 36.9452; -76.3915
Year first lit 1891
Automated 1954
Foundation pneumatic wooden caisson
Construction cast iron
Tower shape round "spark plug"
Height 70 ft
Original lens fourth order Fresnel lens
Current lens Vega VRB-25 solar-powered beacon
Range 14 miles
Characteristic red

Newport News Middle Ground Light is a lighthouse near the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel on Interstate 664 in Hampton Roads. It is the oldest caisson lighthouse in Virginia.


This light marks a small rise in the center of Hampton Roads which became a hazard as ships drew more water. The initial request was made in 1887, and after several economizing changes to the design, construction began in 1890 and was completed in the spring of the following year. This was the first sparkplug lighthouse built in Virginia.

Automation came in 1954, and with it the first of a series of characteristic changes, from a fixed to a flashing white light. The light was described as a "second class tall nun buoy". It also marked the beginning of a period of neglect. In 1979 the now unmanned light was struck by a tugboat, and an inspection in 1982 showed serious damage to the first floor gallery and leaks into the foundation; broken and jammed windows allowed seagulls into the interior. Some repairs were made, but more significant changes were made in 1986-87, when the light was converted to solar power. The new beacon was placed outside the lantern, and the following year a more substantial renovation was applied to the structure in an effort to remedy the damage and neglect.

Construction of the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel in 1992 produced a background to the light which tended to obscure it. Inspection in that year and in 1994 showed that the decline of the light continued. In 2000 the beacon was returned to the interior of the lantern, and the characteristic changed to red in order to make it more visible against the bridge's lights.

This light was among a group offered to non-profit groups under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act in 2005. There were no takers, and it was put up for auction. It was purchased by private interests and renovated as a vacation home, though it continues to serve as an active aid to navigation.

The light was purchased by the Billingsley and Gonsoulin families in 2005.

U.S. Coast Guard Archive


External links

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