Timeline: Clay Island Lighthouse

1828:   Congress appropriates $6,500 to construct a lighthouse on Clay Island, at the northernmost part of Tangier Sound on May 23.

1831:   Congress appropriates $5,900 for the project as the previous appropriation had been carried to the surplus fund. The land is purchased for the site of the lighthouse at a price of $500 – the deed was signed on August 26th.

1832:   John Donahoo is awarded the contract to build the lighthouse for a price of $5,400 and the contract is signed in August. The work is completed by October 1 and the light is exhibited sometime in November. It is a 1-1/2 story brick dwelling with the tower extending through the roof and fitted with (10) 15-inch lamps.

1838:   In an inspection report it is noted that the lantern leaks and the oil freezes in the winter.

1850:   In an inspection report it is noted that the land is eroding around the lighthouse.

1856:   A new sixth-order Fresnel lens is installed at the lighthouse.

1867:   Six new Franklin lamps are substituted for the original fountain lamps and general repairs are made to the house.

1882:   Red panels are inserted inside the lantern panes in front of the lights on April 1.

1886:   It is noted that the land is quickly eroding around the structure and suggest adding riprap to protect the tower unless a new lighthouse is constructed soon.

1889:  Congress appropriates money to construct a lighthouse on Sharkfin Shoal, which will replace the Clay Island Lighthouse.

1890:   The station is listed as being in bad condition for quite some time, but nothing has been done to repair it now that Sharkfin Shoal Lighthouse will be constructed to replace the original structure at Clay Island.

1892:   Sharkfin Shoal is completed in July and the Clay Island Lighthouse is discontinued on August 1.

1894:   The Clay Island Lighthouse collapsed.


  1. Annual Report of the Lighthouse Board, various years.
  2. Annual Report of the Secretary of the Treasury on the State of Finances, various years.
  3. Forgotten Beacons, Patrick Hornberger & Linda Turbyville, 1997

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