The entrance and base windows are decorated with cast-iron segmental pediments and elaborate moldings. Over the door is the date 1879, the year construction began, with a star on each side. The double-door entrance is 10 feet wide and 10 feet high. On the interior the staircase has 180 steps and six landings. There are another 27 steps from the service room to the watch room and finally to the lantern room, making a total of 207 steps.
In 1984 the lighthouse became fully automated, and no longer needed a keeper. Today it is maintained by the Coast Guard, and remains in use. This lighthouse is widely considered one of the most important lighthouses on the east coast. It's light, which is a first-order Fresnel lens, is still used for navigation by ships coming into the Chesapeake bay (New Cape Henry Light).
In 2002 it was determined that the lighthouse met the requirements to be added to the National Register of Historic Places and it was given the official designation (Clifford).