Chesapeake Bay lighthouse repairs nearly complete

Here’s what the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse with repairs in progress looks like from the water. (Courtesy Marine Solutions, Inc.)
Here’s a view of the repairs in progress underneath the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse. (Courtesy Marine Solutions, Inc.)
Some of the rusty metal supports looked like this underneath the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse before repairs were made. (Courtesy Marine Solutions, Inc.)
Metal underneath the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse had corroded, before repairs were made. (Courtesy Marine Solutions, Inc.)
Workers painted replaced metal parts underneath the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse. (Courtesy Marine Solutions, Inc.)

Efforts to raise enough money to stop a 145-year-old lighthouse from falling into Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay were a big success, and almost all the repair work is done.

The hexagon-shaped Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse near Annapolis is like no other lighthouse anywhere.

It is the last surviving screw-pile lighthouse that is still in its original location, and still being used for navigational purposes.

“It’s just a really beautiful structure, and it’s an icon of things that were done in the past,” said lighthouse manager John Potvin, a member of the U.S. Lighthouse Society.

“It was built in 1875, and here it is 145 years old, and it’s still out there doing its intended function, which is to make sure ships don’t run aground on the Thomas Point Shoal.”

More than $430,000 was raised to replace rotting metal at the base of the lighthouse, right near the water.

“The goal is met and I want to thank the public, because they really came through in our time of need,” said Potvin.

Funding from the state helped, as well.

“We were very fortunate in that we went to the state Senate for the state of Maryland in April and they actually granted us a $50,000 local bond initiative, which put us over the top of getting this work done,” said Potvin.

All metal beams were replaced, along with all but one tie rod. Most of the work was finished in mid-June, and that final tie rod will likely be installed in the fall.

Public tours of the lighthouse are canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic and are scheduled to resume in 2021, but limited numbers of volunteers are still regularly visiting the lighthouse to tackle smaller-scale projects.

“When we go out now, we go out with a limited group of people socially distanced on the boat. And everybody’s wearing masks and doing all the proper protocol,” said Potvin.

“A lighthouse always needs work. There’s never an end to the work that’s being done.”

Potvin said he has a great group of volunteers that includes about 66 docents and nearly 50 preservationists.

Some of the work going on now involves painting and installing new siding.

“The siding that we are using right now is donated to us by a mill shop up in Glen Burnie, Maryland,” Potvin said.

Aug. 7, 1989 was designated National Lighthouse Day thanks to a joint resolution in Congress and the signature of President Ronald Reagan.

Although the designation only lasted for one year, lighthouse enthusiasts continue to celebrate it each Aug 7.

Below is a map of where the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse is located in the Chesapeake Bay.

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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