Baltimore Lighthouse
The Light
From the U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office:

     This is one of the last lighthouses built on the Chesapeake Bay.  The fact that it was built at all is a testimony to the importance of Baltimore as a commercial port.  The original appropriation request to Congress for a light at this location was made in 1890 and $60,000 was approved four years later.  However, bottom tests of proposed sites showed a 55 foot layer of semi-fluid mud before a sand bottom was hit.  This extreme engineering challenge made construction of a light within the proposed cost impossible. An additional $60,000 was requested and finally appropriated in 1902.  Even then, the project had to be re-bid because no contractor came forth within the allotted budget.  Finally, the contract was awarded to William H. Flaherty (who had built the Solomon’s Lump and Smith Point lights).  The materials were gathered and partially assembled at Lazaretto Point Depot, then towed to the site and lowered to the bottom in September 1902. 

    As excavation progressed, heavy seas tilted the cylinder. Later on October 12th, a storm pushed it over so it lay on its side.  At this point, the contractor ceased work.  Instead of returning the following Spring, as planned, Flaherty defaulted and his company later went into receivership.  The resulting legal problems further complicated the situation.  It was not until the fall of 1905 that construction resumed under the guidance of the surety company - U. S. Fidelity and Guaranty Co. 

Baltimore Harbor Lighthouse 1908

    A pier was built around the sunken caisson to hold worker housing, and the huge amount of machinery needed to right the structure.  By that time, many of the iron caisson plates were severely damaged and needed to be replaced. By 1907 the cylinder had been righted and work progressed.  When completed, the caisson stood 82 feet below sea level, on top of 91 piles driven into the bottom.  It was the tallest caisson light in the world at the time.  The brick dwelling / light tower was constructed the following year and the light was outfitted with a fourth order Fresnel lens and commissioned October 1, 1908.

    In 1923 the fog bell was replaced with a fog horn and the light was converted to run off acetylene.  On May 1 of the same year, the light was automated and the keeper transferred to Point No Point Light.

     In May 1964 the light was converted to run off power supplied by a small atomic fuel cell, making it the first atomic-powered lighthouse in the world.  This experiment only lasted a year and the concept was not pursued further.

1890 Original appropriation request made to Congress by the Lighthouse Board.
Aug 18, 1894 Congress approves the appropriation for $60,000.
1895 Test borings into the bottom reveal 55ft of soft mud before reaching sand.
1896 The direction of the entrance to the Craighill Channel was shifted. And a new locations was selected for the Baltimore Harbor Light
1898 Test were conducted to evaluate an alternate construction method.
1902 An additional appropriation of $60,000 was approved and construction began.
Spring 1902 Contractor William H Flaherty, with materials assembled, begins construction on the wooden caisson at the Lazaretto Depot.
Late June 1902 With 12 courses of the wooden caisson completed, the wooden caisson was ready for launching.
August 1902 The 48ft square caisson was launched, and 8 more courses of timber were added as were 2 courses of iron plates.
Sept 19, 1902 The caisson was towed to the site. As they sunk it to the bottom, workers added iron plates.
Sept 21, 1902 With the caisson now 8 feet into the mud, heavy Seas flooded the caisson and caused it to develop a list
Oct 7, 1902 The contractor added two more courses of iron plates and attempted to level the caisson by adding concrete to the high side.
Oct 12th 1902 A severe storm capsizes caisson and the contractor ceases work, stating he will return in the spring.
Oct 31, 1902 The Baltimore American reports "The erecting of the lighthouse is conceded to be one of the most difficult undertakings that lighthouse builders have undertaken."
Spring 1903 Contractor William H. Flaherty defaults on his contract and his company goes into receivership.
Fall 1905 After much legal wrangling, construction resumes with the construction company now in the hands of the United States Fidelity and Guaranty Co.
Dec 6 1905 By now 62 of the 120 plates have been unbolted and returned to the Lazaretto Point Depot, seven of which had been damaged beyond repair.
Spring 1906 A plan is devised to right the light using counter balances. A "U" shaped pier is constructed at the site, to house the workers and hold the equipment required, including 10 A frames, a hoisting machine, three compressors and a steam engine.
November 20, 1906 At this point, the structure has been righted to within 17degrees of vertical. A few days later work ceased for the season.
April 1907 Work resumes, the third and fourth courses of iron plates are attached. 80 tons of stone are placed on the high side of the caisson, bringing it 5 feet closer to vertical. After the fifth and sixth courses are subsequently completed an additional 100 tons of stone are added. The caisson is now within 6 ft of vertical.
1907 Further work eventually brought the caisson to level. It was then sunk 82ft below sea level, 62ft into the bottom.
Late June 1908 The brick work is nearly completed and the roofing was underway.
Sept 10, 1908 Major, W.E. Craighill, Fifth District Engineer, notified the Lighthouse Board that the U.S. Fidelity and Guaranty Co. had completed the Baltimore Harbor Light..
Oct 1 1908 Baltimore Harbor Light was officially commissioned
1923 The fog bell was replaced with a fog horn & the light was converted to acetylene.
May 1 1923 The light was automated and keeper was transferred to Point No Point.
May 1964 An experimental atomic fuel cell was fitted.
1965 The fuel cell removed, and the concept no longer pursued.
April 25, 2006 The U.S. Coast Guard offers Baltimore Harbor Lighthouse and Sandy Point Shoal lighthouse for sale by public auction.
June 28, 2006 The Baltimore Harbor Lighthouse auction officially closes with a high bid of $260,000.
June 29, 2006 The Sandy Point Shoal lighthouse auction officially closes with a high bid of $250,000.

BHL, L.L.C. • 2060 West Street • Annapolis, MD 21401