Arguably the best known of all lighthouses in the Chesapeake Bay, the Thomas Point Shoal Light Station was built and lit in 1875 at the mouth of the South River by the U.S. Lighthouse Service. Two earlier lighthouses made of stone had succumbed to erosion.
By 1964, it was the very last lighthouse that was manned in Chesapeake Bay due to a program of automating these structures. As a result, the U.S. Coast Guard began discussing plans to dismantle and replace it with a steel tower in 1972, which proved unpopular to many Americans who admired the architectural beauty of the lighthouse.
Built using cast-iron and wood, the lighthouse tower is a hexagonal-house structure painted white with a red roof topped by square black lantern. It stands 43 feet tall on a screw-pile foundation. Modernized, its flashing red and white lights have ranges of 11 and 16 nautical miles, respectively. In addition, the lighthouse’s fog horn blares every 15 seconds.
National Historic Landmark
After much public support, the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. After finally becoming automated in 1986, the lighthouse was granted status as a National Historic Landmark in 1999. There are only nine lighthouses in the United States that has received this distinction, and today it is one of the most famous structures associated with both the Chesapeake Bay and the state of Maryland.
The lighthouse still serves as navigational aid, but in 2004 the Coast Guard handed over ownership to the city of Annapolis. The Annapolis Maritime Museum and the U.S. Lighthouse Society’s Chesapeake Chapter, along with Maryland’s Anne Arundel County, are now in charge of its maintenance.
Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse Tours
Two-hour tours depart from a dock located directly behind the Annapolis Maritime Museum. It includes a 30-minute boat ride to the lighthouse, a 1-hour tour of the interior, and a 30-minute return boat ride. Upon reaching the landmark, an experienced guide will entertain you with historic tales, including how the earliest lighthouse keepers lived during the19th Century. A tour reservation is required and can be made through the U.S. Lighthouse Society.
During your visit to the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse, stay at Gibson’s Lodgings, a historic inn located in downtown Annapolis. Call us to reserve your bed and breakfast room at our toll free number 877-330-0057. We’ll be very happy to serve you and your family throughout the year.