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Hooper Strait Light

Aug. 27, 2019
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Hooper Strait Light, Chesapeake Bay, Hooper Strain, between Hooper Island and Bloodsworth Island, Dorchester County, Maryland

Screwpile style lighthouse.

HOOPER STRAIT LIGHT

Location:  Originally off the northern entrance to Tangier Sound, between Bloodsworth Island and the eastern shore mainland in the Chesapeake Bay.  Moved in 1966 to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, MD
Date Built:  First structure (destroyed by ice) – 1867.  Current structure – 1879
Type of Structure:  Screw-pile
Appropriation:  $20,000
Characteristics:  Inactive
Foghorn:  Bell
Status:  Standing, but moved to a museum setting

Historical Information:  

  • A lightship station was established at Hooper Strait as early as 1827. Several different ships served duty there, one of which was destroyed during the Civil War by Confederate raiders. As was common on the Chesapeake Bay, the lightship station was succeeded by a screw-pile lighthouse in 1867. This was the first of two screw-pile style lights at Hooper Strait. It was a square dwelling with a fog bell that was rung via a clockwork mechanism. It stood until January 1877 when ice flows tore the iron sleeve piles out from under it, causing the wooden lighthouse to collapse into the Bay. The two keepers made a perilous escape, dragging the station’s small boat for 24 hours across the ice. The mostly submerged lighthouse was later found 5 miles away and some of the equipment, including the lamp, lens, and bell, was salvaged.
  • In January 1879 Congress appropriated $20,000 for a second screw-pile light. The foundation for this one consisted of seven, 10 inch thick, solid wrought iron, (true) screw-piles which were screwed 25 feet into the shoal. As was common, the wooden dwelling was pre-fabricated at Lazaretto Point Depot in Baltimore and shipped to the light station site. This second structure, exhibiting a fifth order Fresnel lens, was commissioned October 15, 1879.
  • In December of 1954 the light was fully automated. The windows were boarded up and the dwelling was largely left to the elements.
  • The cottage was scheduled for destruction in 1966, as part of an overall Coast Guard policy of dismantling old screw-pile dwellings. However, it was acquired in the nick of time by the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, MD, 40 miles away. A number of corporations donated goods and services and in November that year the lighthouse was cut from its pilings and barged up the Bay to its new home. It has been completely restored and is now open to the public along with the museum’s extensive other exhibits.  More information on the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is available at: www.cbmm.org

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