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Maryland's National Register Properties

Photo credit: Skip Willits, 1991
Hooper Island Light Station
Inventory No.: D-644
Date Listed: 12/2/2002
Location: Chesapeake Bay , Barren Island/Hooperville vicinity, Dorchester County
Category: Structure
Period/Date of Construction: 1902, 1904, 1937
Architect/Builder: Toomey Brothers of Guilford, CT
Description: The Hooper Island Light Station consists of a wooden caisson supporting a round 33' in diameter, cement-filled cast-iron cylinder, approximately 36' in height, upon which sits a circular metal tower 18' in diameter at its base and tapering to 17' in diameter at its top. A one-story black iron lantern surmounts the tower. As is the case with caisson-type lighthouses, this is an integral station, i.e., the keeper's quarters, fuel storage areas, and lantern room are all part of the same structure. The first four stories of the tower housed the keeper's quarters and storage. The superstructure is constructed of cast-iron plates. The tower consists of five tiers of cast-iron plates bolted together at the integral flanges, which are turned inward. Access to the interior of the structure is through a four-panel wood door on the west side of the structure. There are two 2/2 sash windows on the first level, three on the second, and three on the third. Several of these have lost their glass and/or have been covered with acrylic sheeting. The fourth level has five porthole-type windows. A lower gallery surrounds the tower at the bottom, and an upper gallery surrounds the top. A smaller one-story circular tower, in which the watchroom is located, surmounts the tower. This is then surmounted by the lantern. A second smaller upper gallery surrounds the lantern. The original 1902 lens was a fourth-order Fresnel manufactured by F. Babier & Company, Paris, in 1888. In 1904, the light was changed to a fixed white with an eclipse every 15 seconds. The 41 1/2"-diameter fog bell, manufactured by McShane of Baltimore in 1901, was changed to a Cunningham air diaphragm foghorn in the late 1930s. The fog bell was retained as a backup. A 110-volt generator system was installed on August 28, 1937. This replaced a 10-volt battery pack. The fog bell was removed at that time and replaced with an air diaphragm horn. The light was fully automated on November 21, 1961. On September 15, 1976, the Coast Guard found that the original fourth-order Fresnel lens had been stolen. The lower gallery roof was removed some time after automation. The current optic is a solar-powered 300 mm lens. The Hooper Island Lighthouse is located in approximately 18' of water, approximately three miles west of Hooperville, Upper Hooper Island. Owned and managed by the U.S. Coast Guard in District 5, access to the station is via boat. Significance: Completed in 1902, the Hooper Island Light Station is significant for its association with federal governmental efforts to provide an integrated system of navigational aids and to provide for safe maritime transportation in the Chesapeake Bay, a major transportation corridor for commercial traffic from the early nineteenth through twentieth centuries. This pneumatic caisson lighthouse embodies a distinctive design and method of construction that typified lighthouse construction on the Chesapeake Bay during the late half of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Of the eleven pneumatic caisson lighthouses built in the United States, seven were built in the Chesapeake Bay; three were built in the Virginia portion of Chesapeake Bay (Wolf Trap Lighthouse, 1894, Smith Point Lighthouse, 1897, and Thimble Shoal Lighthouse, 1914); and four in the Maryland portion of Chesapeake Bay (Solomons Lump Lighthouse, 1895, Hooper Island Lighthouse, 1902, Point No Point Lighthouse, 1905, and Baltimore Lighthouse, 1908). Hooper Island Lighthouse is the only cast-iron caisson lighthouse in Maryland with a watch room and lantern surmounted on the tower.
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