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1879 Hooper Strait Lighthouse

On January 11, 1877, the first Hooper Strait Lighthouse, a square screwpile structure, was knocked from its foundation by moving ice, after just 10 years of service. Keeper John Cornwell and his assistant Alexander S. Conway escaped in a small boat, but the ice prevented them from reaching land. They were rescued 24 hours later by a passing sloop. Despite the trying experience, Cornwell again became the keeper when the second Hooper Strait Lighthouse—which now is part of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum—was completed in 1879.
On January 11, 1877, the first Hooper Strait Lighthouse, a square screwpile structure, was knocked from its foundation by moving ice, after just 10 years of service. Keeper John Cornwell and his assistant Alexander S. Conway escaped in a small boat, but the ice prevented them from reaching land. They were rescued 24 hours later by a passing sloop. Despite the trying experience, Cornwell again became the keeper when the second Hooper Strait Lighthouse—which now is part of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum—was completed in 1879.

(Pictured above: The 1879 Hooper Strait Lighthouse, as part of it was placed on a barge, to be moved to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Maryland in 1966. It opened to the public on May 20, 1967.)

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Lighthouse keepers had risky jobs with an important responsibility to keep the Chesapeake’s shoals and channels safely marked for shipping. Ascend the steps of the Hooper Strait Lighthouse and travel back in time to learn how 19th century lighthouse keepers tended their station in the middle of the Bay. Through this hands-on exhibit, visitors can climb the sea hatch, tend the huge lens, or stand watch on the lookout for ships or fog, experiencing firsthand the solitary, often heroic lives of Hooper Strait lighthouse keepers.

The 1879 Hooper Strait Lighthouse, now standing on Navy Point, was originally built in 1879 to light the way for boats passing through the shallow, dangerous shoals of Hooper Strait, a thoroughfare for boats bound from the Chesapeake Bay across Tangier Sound to Deal Island or places along the Nanticoke and Wicomico Rivers. As a “screwpile” lighthouse, it is built on special iron pilings which were tipped with a screw that could be turned into the muddy bottom for a depth of 10 feet or more. CBMM’s lighthouse is the second lighthouse constructed at Hooper Strait – the first one was destroyed by ice in 1877.

See The Darkroom of The Baltimore Sun’s feature of the 1879 Hooper Strait Lighthouse here (September 2017).

Donations to the Annual Fund generously support the maintenance of the 1879 Hooper Strait Lighthouse, as well as our other restoration, education, and exhibition programs.

Learn more about the Hooper Strait Lighthouse:


See more photos of the lighthouse and our campus here:

1879 Hooper Strait Lighthouse @CBMM in St. Michaels, Md.