Thimble Shoal Light

Thimble Shoal Light

Infobox Lighthouse

caption = Undated photograph of Thimble Shoal Light, Virginia (USCG)
A temporary structure sits on the old screw-pile foundation to the right.
location = in the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia four miles ENE of the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel
coordinates = coord|37.0146|N|76.2399|W|type:landmark
yearlit = 1872 (first light)
1880 (second light)
1914 (current light)
automated = 1964
yeardeactivated =
foundation = caisson
construction = cast iron/concrete
shape = Cylindrical
height = 65 ft
lens = fourth order Fresnel lens
currentlens = Vega VRB-25 solar-powered beacon
range = 20 miles
characteristic = 10 sec Flashing white
status = standing/active

Thimble Shoal Light is a caisson lighthouse in the Virginia portion of the Chesapeake Bay, north of the Hampton Roads channel. The third light at this location, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


The first light at this location was a hexagonal screw-pile lighthouse erected in 1872, replacing the last lightship stationed within the bay. It was destroyed by fire in 1880 and replaced in the same year with a new house on the same foundation. This was facilitated by the availability of a newly constructed house originally intended for the Bells Rock Light, so that the light was out of service for only fifty-five days.

The second light was plagued by collisions with passing ships: it was struck by a steamer in 1891, by a coal barge in 1898, and finally by the schooner "Malcolm Baxter, Jr.", which struck the lighthouse in 1919 while under tow. This last collision damaged the foundation and overturned the stove in the house, which was destroyed by fire.

A caisson light was placed next to the old site in 1914; in the meantime, a temporary light perched on the remains of the old screw-pile foundation. This light has several unusual features for such lights in the bay area, most notably the diamond-shaped panes in the lantern and the round porthole windows. Unlike its predecessors, it passed time relatively uneventfully, with automation coming in 1964. The broken, skeletal remains of the old foundation remained next to the light until their removal in the 2000s. As with most lights the original Fresnel lens has been removed, replaced by more modern beacons; in this case the lens is displayed at the Coast Guard Training Center in Yorktown, Virginia. Though worn from years of vacancy, it retains most of the canopy over the lower level gallery. In 2005 it was sold at auction to a private interest, but remains an active aid to navigation.


* [ Virginia Light Stations] , from the United States Coast Guard
* [ Thimble Shoal Light Station's National Register of Historic Places Nomination]
* [ Thimble Shoal Lighthouse, Virginia] from
* [
*cite book|title=The Lighthouses of the Chesapeake
last=de Gast|first=Robert
publisher=Johns Hopkins University Press
pp. 30-33.

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