January 31, 2016

Photo Essay: The Decommissioned Light of the Chesapeake

Whenever I plan a trip to a new place, there are a few keywords I always search for:
If I can find at least a couple of those in any place I visit, I'm pretty entertained.

In Baltimore, the issue wasn't whether or not I could find any of my favorite attractions, but how much time I would have to visit any of them.

I made time to visit the lighthouse.

Now located in the touristy Inner Harbor section of Baltimore, the Seven Foot Knoll Light was built in 1855...

...and installed at the mouth of the Patapsco River at the Chesapeake Bay.

In 1997, the lighthouse was moved nearly 40 miles up the river to its northern end and installed at the harbor.

It is the oldest lighthouse of its kind in the state of Maryland—one that had been screwed into a shallow shoal, rather than being built on land or a manmade island.

It was one of the first such "screw-pile" lighthouses to be built in the U.S., and the second in the Chesapeake Bay.

Now, the relocated and restored lighthouse serves as a maritime museum.

The keepers of the lighthouse were either from the U.S. Lighthouse Service or the Coast Guard...

...but it was hard to keep them at the lighthouse, in such isolation and monotony.

There wasn't really enough room for an entire family to stay there, a practice that wasn't permitted anyway—though some keepers tried.

Every morning, they would climb up to the lantern to clean the lens and make sure it was in good working order for that evening.

If it was foggy, they had to sound the horn. During winter storms, they had to fight off floating ice.

And they had to collect rainwater in cisterns so they'd have a water supply.

Of course, the work of a lighthouse keeper is absolutely essential for the safe navigation of vessels through high traffic (or high hazard) waterways—unless the lighthouse becomes automated. And that's exactly what happened with the Seven Foot Knoll lighthouse in 1949, making the keepers obsolete.

But lighthouses are certainly not obsolete, and Baltimore Harbor still has a working lighthouse protecting its waters at the mouth of the Magothy River by Gibson Island.

The only problem with lighthouses that haven't been decommissioned yet?

They're a lot harder for the public to visit.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: The Light at Angel's Gate
This House Has a New Home

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