Virginia Beach celebrates 50th at Cape Henry Lighthouse Saturday
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Virginia Beach will have a 50th birthday celebration 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Cape Henry Lighthouse. Visitors without military ID must enter through Gate 8 at the end of Atlantic Avenue and must show registration and insurance for their vehicles as well as IDs for everyone over the age of 16. (Pilot Archive Photo)
© January 17, 2013
Birthday party time!
The city of Virginia Beach’s 50th birthday will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Cape Henry Lighthouse. Mayor Will Sessoms will be given the key to the lighthouse and all members of the City Council will be named honorary lighthouse keepers.
There will be birthday cake all day for visitors.
City residents and anyone with a military ID will receive half-price admission to the lighthouse Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
The modern city of Virginia Beach was created on Jan. 1, 1963, by merging the small, seaside community of Virginia Beach with sprawling, rural Princess Anne County. The city will celebrate its golden anniversary with festivities all year long, culminating in a street festival in October at the beach.
Jennifer Hurst-Wender, Preservation Virginia’s associate director of museum operations and education, hopes the celebration at the lighthouse will also bring awareness about one of the city’s many historical monuments.
“The Cape Henry Lighthouse is a symbol of the city of Virginia Beach, but is something that most local residents don’t realize they can come enjoy and visit,” Hurst-Wender said. “We want to identify it as something that’s here for the citizens, and that’s accessible.”
The Cape Henry Lighthouse was the first public building project of the new United States government after the Revolutionary War, according to Stuart Nesbit, site coordinator of the lighthouse.
The area’s historical ties are central to the nation’s beginnings.
“Many people don’t know about the French blockade that happened right off Cape Henry, which is what allowed George Washington’s army to defeat the British at Yorktown,” said Nesbit, who is also the site coordinator for the Cape Henry Lighthouse.
French Rear Admiral Francois de Grasse and 3,000 French reinforcements came to the aid of Washington and blockaded the coast, drawing away British forces and ultimately leading to Cornwallis’ surrender after the Siege of Yorktown and helping to ensure America’s independence.
“There’s a lot of history, big American history, that took place right here in Virginia Beach,” Nesbit said.
The 90-foot-high stone lighthouse guided sailors from 1792 until 1881, when the new Cape Henry Lighthouse was built.
It takes a prominent position on the city’s seal along with the First Landing Memorial.
Since 1930, the old lighthouse has been owned and operated by Preservation Virginia, the oldest statewide historic preservation organization in the country.
Preservation Virginia, formerly known as the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, was founded in 1889. It owns and maintains 23 properties across the state.
“There are some wonderful assets that are out there, not only the lighthouse in Virginia Beach, but wonderful historical sites throughout the city,” Nesbit said. “The more people that know about them, the more they’ll appreciate them.”
Virginia Beach will have a 50th birthday celebration 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Monday at Cape Henry Lighthouse. Visitors without military ID must enter through Gate 8 at the end of Atlantic Avenue and must show registration and insurance for their vehicles as well as IDs for everyone over the age of 16. Cost: $2.50 for adults; $1.50 for children 12 and younger. Guests must be 42 inches tall to climb the lighthouse; children may not be carried up the steps; backpacks/frontpacks are not allowed on the staircase. Visit www.VBgov.com/50thAnniversary for the latest news and event announcements.