On March 3, 1819, Congress appropriates $9,000 to construct a lighthouse on the Bodkin and two lighthouses on North Point at the mouth of the Patapsco River, Maryland. Additional funds were appropriated in 1822 and 1823. When the two lights at North Point were lined up one above the other, mariners knew that they were heading directly into the mouth of the river. It was the first of five sets of range lights proposed to guide vessels into the port of Baltimore, as well as some of the earliest lighthouses in the Maryland area of the Chesapeake Bay. The fifth set was never built.
Prior to his death in 1820, Benjamin Latrobe, a well-known architect, and engineer submitted drawings for the two lighthouses. The two whitewashed masonry towers were constructed and completed in 1822. The eastern tower (lower light) stood in 3-feet of water and was connected to the shore by a 200-foot walkway. The western tower (upper light) stood in 5-feet of water approximately 700 yards from the eastern tower, 100 yards from the shoreline. Both lighthouses were equipped with a sixth-order lens with six Franklin lamps, exhibiting a fixed white light.
The keeper lived in a 20-foot x 34-foot whitewashed stone dwelling with a shingle roof. It was 1-1/2 stories with a small addition while the kitchen was detached. There were three rooms on the main level and two at the upper level. There was one brick cistern to collect and store rainwater and one 2,000-gallon capacity well on the premises for water. Because the keeper maintained two lighthouses, they were paid double the annual salary. Keeper Elizabeth Riley kept the lights the longest from 1834-1857 for a total of 23 years with her son serving as her assistant, where she earned $600/year.
The construction was so poor on the lighthouses that John Donahoo, builder of multiple lighthouses, was called on to shore up the towers sometime around 1830. Complaints were also common of poor visibility and the location of the lighthouses was often questioned.
The lights were discontinued in 1873 after the construction of the Craighill Channel Range Lights and left to deteriorate. There is only one known photo of any of these lighthouses, it is posted up top. If you find one, let us know.
Keepers: Solomon Frazier (1822 – at least 1824), David Riley (at least 1831 – 1834), Elizabeth Riley (1834 – 1857), Thomas Hamlin (1857), Elizabeth Riley (1857), Thomas Hamlin (1857 – 1861), Henry Schmuck (1861 – 1864), Mrs. H. Schmuck (1864 – 1866), Thomas S. Hamlin (1866 – 1868), B.B. Harris (1868 – 1869), Benjamin Cole (1869), Joseph Ridgaway (1869 – 1874)
Assistant Keepers: A. J. Fleming (1872 – ), Joseph Worthington (1873), Margaret Ridgaway (1873 – 1874)
1. Annual Report of the Lighthouse Board, various years.
2. Forgotten Beacons, Patrick Hornberger & Linda Turbyville, 1997.
3. Report of the Secretary of the Treasury on the State of Finances, various years