Department Of Interior

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Office of the Secretary
Contact: Joan Moody
For Immediate Release:May 1, 2004
Secretary Norton Announces Thomas Point Lighthouse
Going to City of Annapolis & Nonprofit Partners

(ANNAPOLIS) - Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton today announced that ownership of the historic Thomas Point Shoals Light Station in Chesapeake Bay will be transferred from the U.S. Coast Guard to the City of Annapolis and its nonprofit and government partners.

Dignitaries participating in the ceremony on the Historic City Dock in Annapolis, Md. included U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (Md.-3rd) and Annapolis Mayor Ellen Moyer.

The transfer of the 1875 lighthouse, which represents the nation's last unaltered screwpile cottage-type lighthouse on its original foundation, was the centerpiece of the annual Maryland Maritime Heritage Festival

"Today Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world. It has become an icon of the Chesapeake Bay's heritage and lifestyle," Secretary Norton said.

From 1964 to 1986, Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse was the last staffed lighthouse in the Chesapeake Bay. It was automated in 1986 to continue to serve as an aid to navigation.

"The Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse symbolizes much more than its past and its historical significance as the last lighthouse of its kind," Secretary Norton said. "Starting with the papers we sign today, it symbolizes the kind of public-private partnerships that will protect historical, cultural and natural treasures for the future."

The city of Annapolis will become the new owner while the nonprofit U.S. Lighthouse Society and its Chesapeake chapter will serve as lighthouse managers. The society

will lease the structure, making use of its volunteers to restore and preserve the lighthouse and to run educational tours in consultation with the Annapolis Maritime Museum and Anne Arundel County.

In cooperation with the U.S. Coast Guard and the General Services Administration, the Interior Secretary signed papers giving the lighthouse to these partners. GSA Regional Administrator Barbara Shelton; Rear Adm. Sally Brice-O'Hara, Commander, 5th District, U.S. Coast Guard; Capt. Curt Springer, USCG; and Ginger Ellis, environmental director of Anne Arundel County, also participated.

Under the National Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000, the National Park Service studies lighthouses no longer needed by the Coast Guard and recommends the best stewards for long-term preservation. Eligible applicants include state, local and federal agencies; nonprofit organizations; and community groups.

More than 300 lighthouses nationwide are eligible for transfer. Over the past two years 30 lighthouses have been processed under the 2000 law.

The Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse Partnership plans to restore parts of the lighthouse to represent the early 20th century and parts of it to represent the Coast Guard era in the mid-century. This restoration work will take an estimated five years. Limited public tours will begin as soon as possible, however.

"By combining the resources of the city and county governments with a nonprofit organization, this partnership meets the needs of the local community while utilizing national expertise in historic preservation," Norton said.

More information on the National Lighthouse Preservation Program can be found at and
Information on the new partnership is at For more information on other Chesapeake Bay Lighthouses, see

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following color photo of the lighthouse can be found at

The Thomas Point Shoals Light Station

To many people, the squat, leggy, and altogether charming screwpile lighthouse is synonymous with the Chesapeake Bay. The Thomas Point Shoals Light Station is a screwpile with a hexagonal one and one-half story white wood keeper's cottage with dormers and a red roof. The tower is 25 feet high. Like giant waterbugs, screwpile lighthouses were placed atop angled, iron legs screwed into the Bay's soft bottom. Rip-rap was piled around the legs as protection. The Thomas Point Station is about one mile offshore, four miles south of Annapolis, at the mouth of the South River, marking the shoal extending from the north side of the river. The structure was built in 1875 and automated in 1986. The last Chesapeake screwpile light on its original site and the last to be automated, the Thomas Point Station is a National Historic Landmark.


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