Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse
Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse located in the Chesapeake Bay
While not strictly in the environs of Shady Side, if you love the water – this is worth a peep! This particular lighthouse is the symbol of Maryland to many and it is very close to the beaches of Shady Side.
How Many Times Did They Build It?
Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse is on the southernmost tip of the peninsula called Thomas Point. This lighthouse is needed because of the shoal under the water which posed a danger to watermen in the bay. So it was commissioned in 1824 by a prolific lighthouse builder, John Donahoo. The first attempt was a 30-foot tall tower with a stone cottage at the base for the keeper. By 1838 the fairly new lighthouse was in danger of toppling into the bay. The glaciers of ice were renowned in the winter and the waves were brutal. An associate of Donahoo’s, Winslow Lewis was paid to tear down the tottering tower and rebuild it behind the stone cottage. At that time, it was on a 7-acre island, but the water battered it down to 2 acres. Erosion finally pulled down the lighthouse in 1894.
A screwpile lighthouse was approved to replace the one that was slowly eroding. The present lighthouse was losing 2 support beams due to the ice floes in 1872-1873. This particular location was proving to be quite a challenge! This new lighthouse was going to be built on 5 new acres and the builders had to change the plans to make this foundation stand up to the Chesapeake. They are going to put the screwpiles into cement. One central and six piles around. By 1875 the new lighthouse was inaugurated.
Hexagon Cottage on the Water
Instead of a cone type lighthouse, this was the 6 sided cottage style that has become the symbol of Maryland. Inside it was quite cozy, with fireplaces and two floors for living quarters. The topmost level has the light itself, with a fourth-order Fresnel lens. Even with the piles in cement, it still can’t stand up to the Chesapeake’s currents. Riprap (large rocks) are used in place to break up the water from tearing up the piles.
The story doesn’t end there. The story of the lighthouse keepers and their assistants are just as interesting. Head Keeper Daniel A White took the boat to get groceries one day. When he came back, his assistant, Henry Addicks was nowhere to be found. No one knows to this day what happened to him.
The Lighthouse is Still Here
In 1986, Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse was fully automated. Up to that point, it had been one of 2 lighthouses that were still staffed on the Chesapeake Bay. Now it is preserved and restored, with each room representing a different time in its history. One room shows the Victorian era, while one bedroom shows what a navigation room the Coast Guard would use in the late 1970s. The kitchen is early twentieth century, with an oil lamp and flatiron.
The Chesapeake is famous not only for the seafood but for its lighthouses. The Thomas Point Shoals Lighthouse is an amazing testament to bygone eras and the fortitude of those protecting the watermen.