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Maryland's National Register Properties

Photo credit: Heather R. Davidson, 1993
Craighill Channel Lower Range Front Light Station
Inventory No.: BA-1551
Date Listed: 12/2/2002
Location: Chesapeake Bay, Sparrows Point, Baltimore County
Category: Structure
Period/Date of Construction: 1873
Related Multiple Property Record: Light Stations of the United States
Description: The foundation of the Craighill Channel Lower Range Front Light Station is a round 24-foot-diameter cement-filled cast-iron cylinder attached to a wooden caisson. The 25-foot-tall tower is a 1 1/2-story, cast-iron-plate, brick-lined structure, painted dark red/brown, surmounted by a 1-story cast-iron black lantern. The tower consists of a cast-iron-plate cylinder 25 feet in height. Fenestration on the first level consists of eight window openings and two door openings. The windows were 6/6 sash windows that are now covered with acrylic sheets fitted with louvered vents. Only the sashes on the southeast side remain. The main door, which faces north, originally had a wooden four-panel door and frame now replaced with a flush hollow steel storm door mounted in a steel frame. The window openings are decorated with raised cast-iron pediments and sills which were cast integral with the tower plates. At the top of the exterior walls is a decorative cornice with an integral gutter which originally collected rain water to a cistern. The main door has a decorative iron pediment with the date "1873" centered above it. There were two pairs of boat davits, one set each on the northeast and southwest side, but the pair on the northeast side has been removed. The original board-and-batten privy sits over the side of the gallery deck and is supported by iron cantilever brackets from below. The original privy door is missing and the opening covered with plywood. The privy roof is a flat seam metal roof. The station is unusual in that it has two lights, the lower one for the range and the upper one a general aid to navigation. This is the only known extant light station in the Chesapeake Bay with a double light. The now defunct Brewerton Channel Front Range, a screwpile station, had two lights. In 1899 the station received "new model fifth-order lamps" to replace the 1873 fourth-order lens. A fog bell operated by gas was established at the station in 1923. The light was changed from oil to electric on November 26, 1929. The fog signal was changed to an air whistle on October 24, 1932. In 1938 the light was described as having a Reynolds flasher to produce the one-second flash with two-second eclipse. A spare fourth-order "wick lamp" was kept as a backup. Oil was stored in a 225-gallon tank kept in the cellar. The fog signal was a number 4 Typhone Horn with an eight-inch-diameter whistle, which gave a three-second blast every 27 seconds. A backup Gamewell weight-driven clock mechanism produced a double strike every 30 seconds. The weight had to be rewound every hour and a half. The fog bell was a standard 1000-pound bell. The original 360° fixed fifth-order Fresnel lens, made by "Henry Leapute" of Paris, has been replaced by a 250mm acrylic lens, serial number 81115, mounted to the original pedestal. There is a small opaque sector created by the placement of a 6 7/8-inch wide metal sheet against the glass pane and a narrow red sector to the northeast. The light is operated by a solar panel located on the roof of the lantern. The lighthouse is located in 5 to 7 feet of water 1.3 miles southeast of Sparrows Point, marking the south entrance to Craighill Channel, northern Chesapeake Bay, western shore, near Sparrows Point. The lower range rear light is located 2.4 miles north of the range front light. The exterior is relatively intact but the interior is in poor condition. Owned and managed by the U.S. Coast Guard in District 5, access to the lighthouse is via boat. Significance: Completed in 1873, the Craighill Channel Lower Range Front 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. The first caisson lighthouse built in the United States is believed to be the Duxbury Lighthouse, Massachusetts, in 1872. The following year the Craighill Channel Lower Front Range Lighthouse was built and is considered a greater feat of engineering as it was built in deeper water under more difficult conditions. The caisson type quickly became the preferred type of lighthouse to be built in climates where ice floe damage was a possibility. The front range light is unusual for having two lights and is the only known extant example in Chesapeake Bay. A red beacon light is fixed above the gallery deck which serves as the front light for the range and a light in the lantern serves as a general aid to navigation.


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