The Threshold of a New Nation
Along the Oceanfront
The fleet's transatlantic crossing was a long, four-month journey. During the final leg of their voyage, the expedition was drastically blown off course by a violent Atlantic storm. Miraculously, the three ship managed to stay together but found themselves farther north of their intended landing place. At last, in the early morning dawn of April 26, 1607, a lookout called "Land ho." It was the Atlantic coastline of the present day city of Virginia Beach.
As Percy described: "Heaven and earth never agreed better to frame a place for man's habitations than Virginia."
For the next four days, expeditionary parties explored the area around their landing site, claiming all the land in the name of God and England. On the fourth day the adventures returned to the spot of their first landing and named it Cape Henry, after the popular 13-year-old Prince of Wales, eldest son of King James I.
Capt. Newport then gave the order for the expedition to move farther inland to establish the "Capital City." It was felt the Cape Henry area was "too open a road" for settlement and not suitable for resistance from possible attack by Spain, England's longtime rival. However, before departure, atop a high sand dune at Cape Henry, the adventures staked their claim of land by planting a rude wooden cross.
As Percy recorded: "Symbolic of victory in a great understanding expressive of hope in the future of a nation."
The expedition sailed inland, and on May 13, 1607 established a colony on a small island in a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay they named the James River.
King James had ordered that the Capital City be named in his honor, hence the settlement of Jamestown was established.
The historic landing at Cape Henry, located along the Oceanfront of Virginia Beach, will forever be recognized in American history as the site of the "First Landing," thus becoming "The Threshold Of A New Nation."
Old Cape Henry Lighthouse
Plans for a "signal" to be established at Cape Henry to assist safe passage of ships in and out of Chesapeake Bay were discussed by the Colonial General Assembly as early as 1627. However, 164 years passed before the idea of a permanent lighthouse finally became a reality in 1791. The Cape Henry Lighthouse, authorized by the first United States Congress and signed off by President George Washington, is considered the oldest structure of its type in the U.S. The beacon is 72 feet high and require 191 steps to reach the lantern room at the top. The lighthouse stayed in use for 88 years until it was determined that structural problems existed, was declared unsafe and a new lighthouse was needed.
Thankfully, the majestic "Old" Lighthouse has been preserved and designated a National Historic Landmark. It is open to the public for seasonal tours and is on Fort Story at Cape Henry. Be sure to visit
Cape Henry Memorial Cross
Erected in 1935 by the National Society of the Daughters of the American Colonists, this granite memorial cross marks the spot of the first landing at Cape Henry in 1607. This monument also has been declared a National Historic Landmark.
New Cape Henry Lighthouse
The "new" Cape Henry Lighthouse was 327 feet to the southeast from the original and became operational in 1881. The new structure is made of pre-cast steel plates and rises to a height of 163 feet, more than double the height of the original, and casts a more powerful beacon almost 20 miles out to sea. For more than 100 years, it's served as a vital navigational aid to vessels arriving and departing through the Virginia Capes.
Pictured below is a 1901 photograph of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Weather Station at Cape Henry that replaced the original structure built in 1874. Notice the windmill that provided power to pump well water. The weather vane on top of the tower provided a continuous read of wind direction. Also, mounted half way up the tower is a sizable water storage tank that provided a precious supply of fresh water, especially during the warmer months when the winds were apt to be light.
The buildinghoused the Cape Henry Weather Bureau operation for 44 years. The landmark was torn down 1953.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Colonial Era • Communications • Settlements & Settlers • Waterways & Vessels. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #01 George Washington, the Lighthouses, and the National Historic Landmarks series lists.
Location. 36° 51.854′ N, 75° 58.792′ W. Marker is in North Virginia Beach in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Marker is on 36th Street just west of Atlantic Avenue, on the right when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 205 36th St, Virginia Beach VA 23451, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Graveyard of the Atlantic (here, next to this marker); The Princess Anne Hotel (here, next to this marker); A Day at the Beach (a few steps from this marker); Seaside Park Casino / The Cavalier Hotel (a few steps from this marker); The Ash Wednesday Storm (a few steps from this marker); The Winds of Change (a few steps from this marker); VB Now (within shouting distance of this marker); Premier Boardwalk Events (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in North Virginia Beach.
Credits. This page was last revised on January 20, 2021. It was originally submitted on January 20, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 43 times since then. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on January 20, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.
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