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Craighill Channel Upper Range Lights

Approximately ten years after the Lower Range lights were built, another pair of range lights was commissioned to also guide ships into Baltimore via the Craighill Channel from the shoreline. These sister lighthouses were smaller in scale and grandeur to the Lower Range, and contrary to the name, south of them. This is most likely due to the fact that ships entering Craighill Channel approach from the "lower" south area and use the "Lower Range" as guidance, whereas the Upper Range guides ships after making the turn into the Patapsco River.

The Upper Range Front Light: 
Upper Range Front LightThe Cut-off Channel Front Range Light Station is a two-story octagonal brick tower built on the former stone foundation of the 1822 North Point Lighthouse. The light is located in the top of the brick tower at an elevation of 15 feet above the water. It works in tandem with the rear range light guiding vessels into a cut-off channel into the Patapsco River inside the former location of Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse, cutting several miles off the route to Baltimore. The front range light is located within 350 feet off North Point; 1.3 miles southeast of the rear range light, on the north side of mouth of Patapsco River, near Fort Howard, Baltimore County, Maryland just off the VA Hospital property (can be seen from a path in the Fort Howard Park property). It is owned and managed by the U.S. Coast Guard in District 5.

The two-story 22-foot-tall 12-foot square brick tower with truncated corners, has a round arched door opening on the east (landward) side and similarly arched windows on the south facade and similar window niches on the north and west principal facades. The south window has been filled to look like the niches. The window was a two-over-two round head double-hung sash unit.

A keeper's quarters was built on shore in 1885, but abandoned in 1893 when a storm washed away the connecting bridge to the lighthouse. Rather than re-build the bridge, It was decided that the keeper would move into the less than twelve foot square lighthouse and use a skiff to get to shore.  Because of the cramped conditions, the lantern had to be moved to the outside of the tower. The lighthouse was fitted with a keeper's quarters and a boat. One report states the lighthouse was torn down in the late 1930s, and the present brick tower was built in 1938 to replace it. The present tower appears to be the original 1886 tower. The confusion is apparently due to differences given for the height of the tower over time. The height of the tower is given in the 1896 Light List as 18 feet and in the 1994 Light List as 22 feet.

The lighthouse embodies a distinctive design and method of construction that typified range light construction on the Chesapeake Bay during the second half of the nineteenth century and first half of the twentieth century.

The onshore dwellings for both the front and rear range were built according to a cottage plan, similar to those constructed at Cape Henry Light Station, Virginia. Workmen were transported from Baltimore and back by the steam launch Nettle. Both beacons were first lighted on January 15, 1886, even though all the work on the dwellings was not yet complete. All work was completed by the end of June. The "locomotive head-lights" were white, and the front range was 25 feet above the water. In addition, a "suitable" boat and boat landing with davits was fitted to the foundation pier. These changes were completed in October 1893. In 1894, an iron oil house with a capacity for 55 five-gallon cans was erected. In July 1902, a new summer kitchen was installed and minor repairs made. The light was supplied with electricity on November 28, 1929 and has been unmanned since.

The "locomotive" type light is now replaced with a DCB 24. The light characteristic is fixed red.

Both lights were fully automated in 1929 and are still active.


Upper Range Rear Light:
Upper Range Rear LightThe Cut-off Channel Rear Range Light Station rests on four brick pier foundations, which support an iron exoskeleton square pyramid frame with an inner wooden tower built on a brick foundation. The wooden tower, which encloses a stairwell, is sheathed with corrugated sheet metal. The range light is located in the top of the wooden shaft at an elevation of 75 feet above the water. The rear range light is 1.3 miles northwest of the front range light. The rear range light is located onshore at the head of Old Road Bay, Pennwood Wharf, Jones Creek, Sparrows Point, north side of the mouth of Patapsco River, near Edgemore, Baltimore County, Maryland. Access to the property is via Sparrow Point Boulevard, within the Sparrows Point Bethlehem Steel Plant.

Work on the rear beacon and dwelling began in September 1885. It consisted of an "inner wooden shaft, covered with corrugated iron and supported by an iron skeleton frame, forming a frustum of a square pyramid, resting on stone and brick foundation piers." The dwellings of both the front and rear range were built onshore, according to a cottage plan, similar to those constructed at Cape Henry Light Station, Virginia. Workmen were transported from Baltimore and back by the steam launch Nettle. Both beacons were first lighted on January 15, 1886, even though all the work on the dwellings was not yet complete. All work was completed by the end of June. The "locomotive head-lights" were white, and the rear range was 65 feet above the water.

In 1890, brick walks were laid between the buildings and to the outside of the enclosure. A plank walk was laid from the tower to the water's edge, and other minor repairs were made. A plat dated June 12, 1925, shows a small dwelling with two porches located just east of the tower. A storehouse is located just northwest of the dwelling and a privy just northwest of the storehouse. These structures were demolished in the 1920s.

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Newsflash

What are range lights? Range lights are pairs of beacons that work together to line up a channel. Ship captains line up the two beacons, the rear usually higher than the front, and then know they are in the proper channel. The Craighill Channel Lower Range lights mark the entrance to Craighill Channel, which cuts about 5 miles off the entrance to Baltimore Harbor.
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