We went to Fort Story to see the lighthouses, but when we got there we found out that there was more to learn. Fort Story was named for Major General John P. Story in 1916. The base includes 1,451 acres (5.9 km²) of sandy trails, cypress swamps, grassy dunes and soft and hard sand beaches. The beaches are wide, gently sloped and washed by the waters of the Chesapeake Bay on one side and get pounded by the surf of the Atlantic Ocean on the other. Fort Story has three historical sites which consist of the Cape Henry Memorial Cross marking, the location where the Jamestown Settlers first landed, The Old Cape Henry Lighthouse, the first lighthouse authorized and built by the Federal Government, and the Battle off the Virginia Capes monument, a statue of Admiral Francoise de Grasse, to commemorate the famous sea battle which prevented the British from reaching Yorktown during our War for Independence.
We only visited the Old Cape Henry Lighthouse and saw the New Cape Henry from there. Then we spent most of the time at the beach.
The Old Cape Henry Lighthouse, built in 1792, is the oldest lighthouse on the Chesapeake Bay and the third oldest still standing in the United States. The unpainted sandstone tower stands 90 feet tall and was reinforced with a brick lining. It serves as the official symbol for the City of Virginia Beach. During the Civil War, Confederate troops purposely damaged the light to make navigation of the Chesapeake Bay dangerous for Union troops invading the area. In 1870, large cracks appeared on six sides of the octagonal tower, and it was considered unsafe. Today, it still stands and is maintained by the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities. It is open year 'round except in December, when it is decorated like a giant Christmas tree by the U.S. Army. The new Cape Henry Lighthouse was built to replace the old one in 1881. It sits only 357 feet away from the original and is the tallest cast iron lighthouse in the United States. The 164-foot octagonal tower has been operated by the U.S. Coast Guard since 1939. During the early part of World War II, the top was used as a battery commander's station for Battery Walke, which contained two 16-inch howitzers. It is not open to the public.