|Craighill Channel Lower Range Rear Beacon (Millers Island Light)|
The site for the rear beacon had to be carefully chosen to line up with the front range. Because of bottom conditions at the chosen site for the rear range lighthouse, "a pile and grillage foundation became necessary to support the piers on which the columns of the frame-work rest." A cofferdam around the entire site for the nine piers was constructed in April 1873 in two feet of water. Finally the nine piers of Port Deposit granite were constructed on top. The cofferdam was then dismantled. The lighthouse was an open framework in the "form of a frustum of a pyramid of four sides, the corner columns being of cast iron resting on cast iron disks, which are anchored to the masonry of the piers." The keeper's house was built within the frame at the base of the pyramid "through which an enclosed stairway will pass, leading to the lantern." The cost of the rear range foundation was more than anticipated because of difficulty in securing a stable foundation in the soft bottom. The appropriated funds were, therefore, not sufficient to cover the total cost of completing both range lighthouses. Thus, a temporary light was established on the unfinished structure on November 20, 1873. Temporary accommodations for the keepers were prepared on shore by making use of the quarters used by the construction crew. A request for additional funding was made in 1874, and $45,000 was approved on June 23, 1874. Work resumed and was completed in March 1875.
The structure received "extensive repairs" in June 1884 when all the wooden braces, most of which were "much decayed," were removed and replaced by iron swivel and Phoenix beam braces; iron straps were placed on all the tower beams resting on iron; the upper and lower decking was repaired; a new rack for lantern panes was made; new boat davits were erected; gutters and down spouts were replaced; the roof was repaired; and the entire exterior was painted.
On August 21, 1888, a "cyclone" carried away the roof of the dwelling, the copper smokestack, and portions of the galvanized iron sheets covering the tower. Damage was also done to the doors, windows, and gallery. All repairs were completed in the same year.
Also in 1888, the owner of the land near the lighthouse on Miller's Island sued the United States for damages for what he called "unauthorized occupation of the site" under the laws of riparian rights. He claimed he had ownership of the land under the water to build a wharf and the United States seized it from him, and also contended that the rent received from renting the island was lower due to the newly constructed lighthouse. The courts ruled against him.
In 1897, the timbers at the base of the tower, where they rested on the stone piers, had decayed and were replaced and strengthened by iron rods and beams. The "old storage platform" was replaced and a new ladder provided. The structure was also painted. In 1899, new model fourth-order lamps were installed and minor repairs made.
In 1923 the Rear light was converted to acetylene and was automated. For several years the Victorian dwelling was rented until 1938 when it was dismantled, leaving only the skeleton tower, lantern, and square stairway shaft.
A Coast Guard engineering survey conducted on the lighthouse in April 20, 1994, stated the wooden tower "will rapidly become a serious safety hazard to servicing personnel" and the Coast Guard "shouldn't spend any more money trying to maintain it." The Fifth District "should initiate a project to demolish the tower (not framework) and replace it with a light lowering device." These comments have sparked rumors and anxiety among the communities surrounding Millers Island Lighthouse, as it is an icon of the community and its loss would be deeply felt and regretted. However, the lighthouse was determined eligible for listing on the National Historic Register, and therefore is protected under that status.
Craighill Channel Upper Range Lights
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