Whether travelling by land or sea, the lighthouses of the Bay are intriguing destinations for any cruiser or history buff. Here we highlight six. Some of the lights are open to the public; please inquire about Covid restrictions or closures this season. The Chesapeake Chapter of the U.S. Lighthouse Society has a complete list and description of Bay lighthouses at cheslights.org.
Concord Point Lighthouse (Havre de Grace, MD)
The stately white Concord Point Light overlooks the area in which the Susquehanna River flows into the Chesapeake Bay. The tower dates to 1825, making it one of the oldest publicly accessible lighthouses on the Bay. The Keeper’s House Museum features educational and interesting exhibits about the history of this landmark, which is located at the corner of Concord and Lafayette Streets. The property anchors one end of Havre de Grace’s beautiful waterfront promenade. The museum and light are generally open to the public on weekends from April through October.
Baltimore Harbor Lighthouse
The Baltimore Harbor Light proudly stands just north of the mouth of the Magothy River. The last lighthouse constructed on the Bay, it is an octagonal brick structure constructed originally wth a living area on the first floor, two bedrooms on the second floor, and a watch level and light on the third floor. Although it is now solar powered, in 1964 it became the first lighthouse to be powered by nuclear energy. In 2006, this lighthouse was sold to four couples and is now privately owned by BHL, LLC. The new keepers are available (for a fee) to conduct presentations about the light’s history for group events.
Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse (Annapolis, MD)
The beloved and iconic Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse is located near Annapolis, about four miles southeast of the mouth of the Severn River. This lighthouse, constructed in 1875, is the last screwpile style lighthouse still standing in its original location. The station’s well-preserved hexagonal cottage—capped by a copper roof, painted red—is a popular subject for photographers. The Annapolis Maritime Museum plans to resume a schedule of lighthouse tours once Covid restrictions are lifted. Former PropTalk co-publisher David Gendell has written a fantastic book about this lighthouse. Get your copy at Fawcett Boat Supplies or AllTackle in Annapolis, or online at spinsheet.com/thomas-point-lighthouse-book.
Choptank River Lighthouse (Cambridge, MD)
The Choptank River Lighthouse, located at the waterfront in Cambridge, MD, was constructed in 2012 as a replica of a previous screwpile style Choptank River lighthouse, which was destroyed by ice flows in 1918. The beautiful replica lighthouse offers visitors views of historic Cambridge and the Choptank River. Inside, a small museum features exhibits of the maritime heritage of Dorchester County and the Eastern Shore. The Cambridge Lighthouse Foundation promotes the lighthouse and seeks to enhance the experiences it offers to visitors. If you travel by boat, you may reserve a slip through Snap A Slip at the Cambridge Yacht Basin (snagaslip.com). Find more about the lighthouse at choosecambridge.com.
Thimble Shoal Lighthouse (Hampton, VA)
Thimble Shoal Lighthouse is so named because it stands on the “thimble” of Horseshoe Bar, one of two sandbars that made for a difficult entrance to the waterways of Hampton Roads, VA, when the original lighthouse was constructed in the 1870s. The original structure, which was screwpile style, and a subsequent lighthouse that replaced the original, suffered a series of rammings by ships crashing into it. After a devastating fire from one of the rammings, the current cast-iron tower was constructed. It has a caisson foundation and unusual porthole windows. It began operation in 1914, was automated in 1964, and was sold to a private purchaser at auction in 2005. The tower is best viewed from a boat but can be seen from Fort Monroe in Hampton, VA.
Cape Henry Lighthouses—Old and New (Virginia Beach, VA)
The “old” Cape Henry Lighthouse, which still stands, was authorized by George Washington and overseen by Alexander Hamilton. Built of Aquia sandstone, it was in use for 100 years. During that time its lantern was destroyed during a Civil War raid by Confederate soldiers. After cracks in the walls developed in 1872, a new tower was built. The “new” Cape Henry Lighthouse is built of cast iron and was completed in 1881. Its prominent black and white panels make it very distinctive. The new tower is not open to the public, but the old tower is (at print time the old tower is closed until spring 2021 due to Covid restrictions; check with preservationvirginia.org for the latest information.). Both towers are near First Landing State Park and a National Park Service historical site, both of which mark the area where the first English colonists landed in 1607. Today the old tower is surrounded by Joint Expeditionary Base Fort Story.