With the Fourth of July (and a storm) behind us, the skies opened up for a glorious day. And it was a perfect one to venture out to explore the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse. No, not just motoring around the lighthouse, actually climb up inside and check out the life of a lightkeeper.
Yes, there are actual tours of the lighthouse which depart from the Annapolis Maritime Museum on select days during the summer, and it is well worth the cost ($70) and the three hours! For reservations, contact Jeff Gales via email or (415)362-7255. Only 8 days remain in 2014 for this one of a kind experience. July 19th; August 2nd, 16th, and 30th; September 6th and 13th; and October 4th and 11th. Reservations are made by email or phone, so here’s your link:
Your trip begins at the Annapolis Maritime Museum on the vessel Sharps Island with Captain Mike Richards and it takes about 30 minutes to get to the light. You have about 90 minutes to explore the light led by very knowledgeable docents.
The beautiful Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse will be preserved for future generations to enjoy via a public-private partnership formed in 2004 via the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act (NHLPA), The City of Annapolis, The United States Lighthouse Society and its Chesapeake Chapter, the Annapolis Maritime Museum, and Anne Arundel County who all joined forces to obtain ownership of the lighthouse from the federal government.
In 1873 Congress appropriated $35,000 to replace a land based light with a stronger screw-pile. The new light was completed and commissioned on November 20, 1875.
Various methods have been used over the years to protect the station from winter ice flows on the Bay. In the late 1800s, a cast iron ice breaker, on its own screw piles, was constructed about 100 feet from the light. Clusters of pilings and piles of rip rap stone have also been used successfully.
In 1972 the Coast Guard announced that it was considering plans to automate the station and dismantle the cottage. The public rallied around the light and in 1975 it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
The lighthouse was manned until 1986 and was the last lighthouse on the Chesapeake Bay to be fully automated.
In 1999, the lighthouse was designated as a National Historic Landmark, the highest recognition that a historic structure can receive. It is only one of nine lighthouses in the country with this designation, which it received in recognition of it being the only extant and operational cottage-style screwpile lighthouse in the country still located in its original location.
The lighthouse is currently being restored and is anticipated to be done sometime in the future–see Sagrada Familia! In 2010, our last visit, they told us “by the end of 2011 (although one of the docents told me that 2012 might be a better guess).” But it is being restored by volunteers out of love for the icon–and dealing with the National Historic Trust can be challenging.
But I enjoyed the day and encourage anyone that has an interest in Annapolis, the Chesapeake Bay, or history in general to take the time and learn about a different type of life on the bay! But until you do, enjoy the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse vicariously through these snapshots.
To see more images and to see what the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse looked like in 2010 when we visited, here’s your link!