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Choptank River Lighthouse

July 22, 2019
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Choptank River Lighthouse, Cambridge, Maryland

CHOPTANK RIVER LIGHT

Name of Lighthouse: Choptank River
Location: Bernoni Point, just south of Oxford inside the Choptank River - entrance to the Tread Avon River and Island Creek
Date Built: First structure 1871, Second structure 1921
Type of Structure: screw-pile
Foghorn: Bell
Builder: First structure - Francis A. Gibbons
Appropriation:
Status: No longer standing

Historical Information:

  • A contract to build a screw-pile lighthouse at Bernoni Point in the Choptank River was awarded to Francis A. Gibbons in late 1870. At about this time lightship #25, a wooden schooner that had served as a lightship on the bay since 1827, was anchored at the site and remained there until construction of the station was completed. The Choptank River Light was commissioned in December 1871. The design of this first light was similar to the one at York Spit, Virginia. A hexagonal cottage sat upon ten pilings sleeved with iron. Six of these supported the light, with the remaining four designed to protect the others. The lantern was outfitted with a 6th order Fresnel lens.
  • In 1881 during a bad freeze ice piled up against the lighthouse shaking the foundation, cracking some of the pilings, and tilting the dwelling slightly. The keeper abandoned the station. When it was later determined that the damage was not to the supporting piles he was asked to resign.
  • In 1881 the lens was upgraded to a 5th order Fresnel lens.
  • In January 1918 the first light structure was destroyed by ice flows that climbed 30 feet around the structure, eventually knocking the dwelling off its pilings.
  • Some thought was given to replacing the light with a hybrid design consisting of a caisson foundation topped by a screw-pile-type cottage. This was deemed too costly and the superstructure from the decommissioned Cherry Stone lighthouse in Virginia was moved to the site and erected atop a new screw-pile foundation. The light was re-commissioned in 1921. This is the only lighthouse on the Chesapeake Bay to have been replaced with an existing lighthouse from another location.
  • In 1964 the cottage was dismantled.

Researched and written by Matthew B. Jenkins, a volunteer through the Chesapeake Chapter of the U.S. Light House Society.