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Maryland's National Register Properties



Photo credit: Heather R. Davidson, 1993
Thomas Point Shoals Light Station
Inventory No.: AA-358
Date Listed: 2/20/1975
Location: Chesapeake Bay , Highland Beach, Anne Arundel County
Category: Structure
Period/Date of Construction: 1875
NHL Date: 1/20/1999
Description: The Thomas Point Shoals Light Station is a hexagonal frame lighthouse, 1 1/2 stories high, supported by 9 steel frame screw piles. The house, with light tower and living quarters embellished with Italianate brackets and trim, is covered with molded wood siding and a standing-seam metal roof. The hipped roof with six large gable-roofed dormers and an octagonal steel lantern cap the lighthouse. Sawnwork balustrades ring the lantern and the porch surrounding the lighthouse. Until recently a steel octagonal cupola, manufactured in 1875 by the Atlantic Steam Engine Works of Brooklyn, New York, contained the original Fresnel lens which magnified light to a distance of 12 miles. The lens, now removed for safekeeping, is a fourth order lens with an inside diameter of 19 11/16" and a height of 2'-4", supported by a decorative brass frame. Originally lighted by a kerosene lamp, it was later converted to electrical power using a 250-watt bulb. Significance: The original light is intact, and the building has sustained only minor alterations. This lighthouse was the last of the manned screwpile lighthouses in Chesapeake Bay. The screwpile type lighthouse was initially designed and built in 1838 by Alexander Mitchell, an English engineer. Ten years later, this design was first built in the United States on Brandywine Shoal in the Delaware Bay. The screwpile method of anchoring a lighthouse incorporated pilings tipped with two blades arranged in a screw fashion. The method was simple, effective, inexpensive, and appropriate for the often shallow, muddy, or sandy bottom of the Chesapeake Bay. Between 1854 and 1908, 42 screwpile lighthouses were constructed on the Bay. All the structures were basically alike, tending to vary only in size, number of pilings, type of bracing, and style of superstructure. The first lighthouse at Thomas Point shoals was constructed in 1825 on land at the end of the Thomas Point peninsula which before severe erosion extended much further into the bay. Due to its faulty construction, this lighthouse was rebuilt in 1838 by Winslow Lewis. After 44 years, complaints were made that the location of the lighthouse made it of little use at night and in foggy weather. While a new caisson-type lighthouse was considered, a less expensive screwpile lighthouse was selected. The present screwpile lighthouse at Thomas Point was built on five acres of land in the Bay conveyed by the State of Maryland on October 28, 1874. It became fully automated in September of 1986.

 

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