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Thomas Point Shoal Light
Thomas Point Lighthouse Chesapeake Bay.jpg
1999
Thomas Point Shoal Light is located in Maryland
Thomas Point Shoal Light
Thomas Point Shoal Light
Location in Maryland
Thomas Point Shoal Light is located in the United States
Thomas Point Shoal Light
Thomas Point Shoal Light
Location in the United States
Location off Thomas Point at the mouth of the South River in the Chesapeake Bay
Coordinates 38°53′56″N 76°26′10″W / 38.899°N 76.436°W / 38.899; -76.436
Year first constructed 1875
Year first lit 1875
Automated 1986
Foundation screw-pile
Construction cast-iron/wood
Tower shape Square lantern on hexagonal house
Markings / pattern White with red roof and black lantern
Focal height 43 feet (13 m)
Original lens fourth-order Fresnel lens
Current lens 9.8 inches (250 mm) solar-powered lens
Range White 16 nautical miles (30 km; 18 mi)
Red 11 nautical miles (20 km; 13 mi)
Characteristic Thomas Point Shoal Light Signal (Fl W 5s) Red Sector 11-51.5 and 96.5-202.gif
Flashing white 5 sec, with two red sectors
Fog signal Horn: 1 every 15 sec
Admiralty number J2204
ARLHS number USA-845
USCG number 2-7760

The Thomas Point Shoal Light, also known as Thomas Point Shoal Light Station, is a historic lighthouse in the Chesapeake Bay on the east coast of the United States, and the most recognized lighthouse in Maryland. It is the only screw-pile lighthouse in the bay which stands at its original site. The current structure is a 1½ story hexagonal wooden cottage, equipped with a foghorn as well as the light.

History

A stone lighthouse was constructed in 1825 on shore at Thomas Point by John Donahoo. It was replaced in 1838 by another stone tower. The point was subject to continuing erosion (which would eventually bring down the lighthouse on the point in 1894), and in 1873 Congress appropriated $20,000 for the construction of a screw-pile structure. With an additional $15,000 appropriation in 1875, the light was built and activated in November of that year. It took 30 workers to set each cast iron beam 12 ft (3.7 m) into the Chesapeake Bay's bottom.

Ice was a perpetual threat to screw-pile lights on the Chesapeake, and in 1877 the original lens was destroyed when it toppled by shaking from ice floes. This lens was replaced, and the additional piles and riprap were placed around the foundation in order to protect it. By 1964 it was the last manned light in the Chesapeake Bay, and it was not automated until 1986. It is currently the last unaltered screwpile cottage-type lighthouse on its original foundation in the Chesapeake Bay.

Preservation

Concerns for its preservation brought it a National Register of Historic Places listing in 1975 and National Historic Landmark status in 1999.

In 2004, ownership of the lighthouse passed to the city of Annapolis, Maryland, which now maintains the structure in conjunction with Anne Arundel County, Maryland, the Annapolis Maritime Museum, and the Chesapeake Chapter of the U.S. Lighthouse Society. In 2019, a Lighthouse Society spokesman said that the steel substructure, last replaced in the 1980s, is severely rusted and requires $300,000 in repairs. Fortunately, the cast iron screw pilings remain in sound condition, "as good today as they were 144 years ago", said the Baltimore Sun in reporting on the needed funding in August, 2019.

The United States Coast Guard continues to maintain the navigational aids at the Lighthouse. The lighthouse keeper's former living quarters are open to the public three months out of the year, through organized boat tours departing from Annapolis .

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