Craighill Channel Lower Range Front Lighthouse


The excavation of Baltimore Harbor in the early 1800s was one of the greatest achievements of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, boosting Baltimore into one of the largest ports in the United States. Craighill Channel, named after William Price Craighill, (an Army engineer, and a longtime member of the Lighthouse Board), was used by ships traveling from the south in the Chesapeake Bay, then into the Brewerton Channel section, leading through the Patapsco River up to Baltimore Harbor.

Realizing the importance of the port of Baltimore and the need to accommodate larger vessels, Congress appropriated $50,000 in 1870 to widen Craighill Channel from 169 feet to 500 feet and deepen it from 21 feet to 22 feet. However, with no lights, the channel was worthless at night. In 1871, the Lighthouse Board noted: “this channel has the advantage of saving about five miles in distance to large vessels bound to Baltimore from the lower bay”. Original plans only called for two lower range lights, but two sets of range lights were eventually constructed, forming an upper and lower range of lights. Used in pairs, each structure supports lights located at different heights. When the two lights are aligned, you know you are in the channel.

In 1872, Congress appropriated $45,000 to build the two lower-range lights, however, due to challenges in the design of the foundations at both locations, the total cost would rise to $110,000. Work on the lower front light began in 1873. The design was initially proposed to be a screwpile structure, but the Lighthouse Board was concerned about possible damage to the structure from ice. That idea was abandoned, and it was decided to build “a tubular foundation of cast iron,” making it the first caisson-style lighthouse on the Chesapeake Bay.

The site for the lower front light did not have a solid foundation within 60 feet of the water surface, so 10 feet of mud would need to be removed from the channel floor. Wooden piles were then driven into the surface floor and cut off at a depth of 27 feet below the water surface. A 30-foot cast-iron caisson was then lowered into place on top of the foundation. Once the caisson was in the correct location, concrete was poured into the structure, and 5,000 tons of stone were placed around the base. A 27-foot diameter, one-story dwelling was placed on top of the foundation in 1874. Completed in 1875, the interior included a sitting room, kitchen, and two bedrooms. It was circled by a wood walkway, or gallery deck, surrounded by an iron railing. A privy cantilevered from the gallery deck. The second level was 14 feet in diameter which supported the 10-sided lantern room.

Unlike most lights, the lower front lighthouse had two lights, one located in the lantern room with a focal plane of 39 feet, and the other light with a focal plane of 22 feet was mounted on the side of the dwelling. The lantern light was a fifth-order Fresnel lens, lit from sundown to sunrise, while the white range light is kept burning 24 hours a day.

Over the years, multiple rescues were performed by keepers of the lower light. On March 22, 1911, around 5 pm, a bad storm hit the area. Keeper Henry C. Wingate describes the rescue in a newspaper interview: “I saw a vessel in distress some distance away. Before I and my helper could get a boat off and get to her, she capsized.” The boat was a 25-ton boat, carrying a crew of three men. One of those men was carried away and drowned, but Wingate was able to get the other two people to the lighthouse. “Both were unconscious.” One of the men died minutes later, but the other man was resuscitated. He was later cited for bravery by the Government. In addition, Keeper Jorgen Johansen rescued four people from the water on September 13, 1926.

The lower lighthouse was automated in 1964, making it one of the last lights to have Coast Guard personnel on the Chesapeake Bay. Through the years, the condition of the lighthouse deteriorated. In 2017, the General Service Administration started an online auction, which ended on September 20, 2017, with a high bid of $96,000.

Head Keepers: James T. Bowling (1873 – 1874), William H. Wise (1874), Francis M. Buckless (1874 – 1877), John B. Lewis (1877 – 1886), Frederick Burmeister (1886 – 1888), Charles Robinson (1888 – 1890), John Larsen (1890), John Baker (1890 – 1891), William Raabe (1891 – 1892), William A. Cowen (1893 – 1895), John F. Fick (1895 – 1900), Richard S. Daniels (1900 – 1903), John Berentsen (1903 – 1908), Henry C. Wingate (1908 – 1912), Christopher C. Butler (1912 – 1916), Walter L. Barnett (1916), Christopher C. Butler (1916), Jorgen B. Johansen (1916 – 1919), Lloyd V. Gaskill (1919), Jorgen B. Johansen (at least 1920 – 1925), Caleb W. Evans (1925 – ), William M. Goeshy (1929 – 1930), John R. Edwards (1930 – ), Edward B. Austin (1933 – 1941), Millard D. Crockett (1941 – 1947)

Assistants:  Edward Bell (1873 – 1874), F.M. Buckless (1874), George M. Clark (1874 – 1877), Herman Dihl (1877 – 1881), D.T. Storke (1881 – 1882), William Andoun (1882), George E. Day (1882 – 1883), Samuel S. Hendersen (1883), Jeremiah Dailey (1883), Thomas R. Rimby (1883), John T. Windsor (1883), Frederick Burmeister (1883 – 1886), James Lidder (1886), John F. Vansant (1886), Bernhard Berends (1886 – 1887), Robert E.L. Slaine (1888), Michael Sullivan (1888), George W. Abbott (1888), John Lassen (1888 – 1890), James E. Hartley (1890), Joseph Hopkins (1890 – 1891), William Raabe (1891), Henry Corson (1891), William M. Gilbert (1891), Humphrey B. Lecompte (1892), J. Thomas Wright (1892), John J. Little (1892), Otho Bounds (1892), William P. Wright (1892), Charles Kaonss (1893 – 1894), John F. Fick (1894 – 1895), John Berentsen (1895 – 1898), George Lefevre (1898 – 1899), James C. Evans (1899 – 1900), William R. Schoenfelder (1900), Henry C. Sterling (1900 – 1901), Fred F. Kemp (1901 – 1902), Sigbjorn Johnson (1902 – 1903), Petro Beloso (1903), L.C. Christensen (1903), Joseph W. Cooper (1903 – 1904), Peter S. Earle (1904), Edward Jansen (1904 – 1905), William A. Crockett (1905), Reubui Q. Willis (1905), Clarence E. Mason (1905), Robert Kuhn (1905 – 1906), Barney F. Peel (1906 – 1907), Major A. Jones (1907), Robert Callis (1907), John A. Quidley (1907 – 1908), William T. Midgett (1908), J.R. Kerby (1908 – 1910), William Miller (1910 – 1911), James L. Lewis (1911 – 1912), Frederick Raabe (1912 – 1913), Jorgen B. Johansen (at least 1915 – 1916), Christopher G. Butler (1916 – ), C.C. Midgett ( – 1917), Clarence D. Morris (1917 – ), Arthur M. Meekins (1918), Theodore S. Twiford (at least 1919), Edwin C. Tyler (1920 – ), Ulysses S. Todd (1921 – 1922 ), Frank R. Lewis (1922 – ), Caleb W. Evans ( – 1925), Edward L. Rowtan (1925), Christian Andersen (1925 – at least 1930), R.C. Peters, Millard D. Crockett (1937 – 1941)

Updated 5/29/2019

Located in the harbor entrance about 2 miles east southeast of North Point. Accessible only by boat. There is a distant view from North Point State Park. Tower closed to the public.




GPS: 39.188614,-76.3944

Craighill Lower Range Front Light Oct 2022. Photo by Greg Krawczyk

Permanent link to this article: