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Maryland's National Register Properties

Photo credit: Heather R. Davidson, 1993?
Cut-Off Channel Range Front Light Station
Inventory No.: BA-1552
Other Name(s): Fort Howard, North Point Lighthouse, New Cut-Off Channel, Craighill Channel Upper Front Range
Date Listed: 12/2/2002
Location: Patapsco River, Fort Howard vic., Baltimore County
Category: Structure
Period/Date of Construction: 1886, 1929
Related Multiple Property Record: Old National Pike Milestones
Description: The Cut-Off Channel Front Range Light Station is a two-story octagonal brick tower built on the former stone foundation of the 1822 North Point Lighthouse. The light is located in the top of the brick tower at an elevation of 15 feet above the water. It works in tandem with the rear range light guiding vessels into a cut-off channel into the Patapsco River inside Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse, cutting several miles off the route to Baltimore. In 1886, the new Cut-off Channel Range Front light was built on a 30-foot square, stone foundation pier originally built for the 1822 North Point Lighthouse. The foundation pier is capped with concrete. The two-story 22-foot-tall 12-foot square brick tower with truncated corners has a round-arched door opening on the east (landward) side and a round-arched 2/2 sash window on the south facade (now filled with brick) and similar window niches on the north and west facades. There are three windows and one niche on the second-story. They are simple rectangular openings with jack-arched lintels, found only on the principal facades. The truncated corner facades have no fenestration. The door and window heads and arches are decorated with molded brick. The door, located on the east side, is a four-panel wooden bull nosed arched door. There are two stone steps and a stone threshold below the door. The sills of the door, window, and niches are stone masonry. The upper east and west windows still have their original wood bi-fold storm shutters. These shutters are missing on the east window, but its original 2/2 window sash is in good condition. The sash on the west window has been removed and replaced with plywood. The ceiling on the second-level is tongue-and-grove board. A decorative brick belt course is located approximately mid-height of the tower between the two stories. A similar decorative brick belt with the same pattern is found around the upper two-thirds of the lower level but is interrupted by the fenestration. At the roofline are four corbel brick courses; the top course is rounded. The roof is a shallow pyramid standing seam metal roof surmounted with a ventilator ball and lightning conductor spike. The range light is mounted on the exterior wall just above the top of the decorated brick belt between the first and second story. An exterior ladder from the foundation/pier level up to a small metal balcony with rail provides access to the range light. A keeper's quarters was built on shore in 1885, but abandoned in 1893 when a storm washed away the connecting bridge to the lighthouse. The lighthouse was fitted with a keeper's quarters and a boat. One report states the lighthouse was torn down in the late 1930s, and the present brick tower was built in 1938 to replace it. The present tower appears to be the original 1886 tower. The confusion is apparently due to differences given for the height of the tower over time. The front range light is located within 350 feet off North Point; 1.3 miles southeast of the rear range light, on the north side of mouth of Patapsco River, near Fort Howard. It is owned and managed by the U.S. Coast Guard in District 5. Access to the station is via boat. Significance: The Lighthouse 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 19th through 20th centuries. The lighthouse embodies a distinctive design and method of construction that typified range light construction on the Chesapeake Bay during the second half of the 19th century and first half of the 20th century. In order to aid navigation through a cut-off channel between the Craighill Channel and Brewerton Channel, the Upper Range Front and Rear lights were constructed in 1886. As long as the navigator kept the front and rear lights aligned, one directly above the other, the vessel was in the channel. The light was automated in 1929.


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