Timeline: Baltimore Lighthouse

(Last conventional lighthouse built on the Chesapeake Bay)

1890:   The Lighthouse Board requests $60,000 for a lighthouse to mark the entrance to the Baltimore Channel at the mouth of the Magothy River.

1894:   Congress appropriates $60,000 on August 18, 1894.

1895:   Test borings reveal 55 feet of soft mud before reaching the sand, which causes a delay.

1899:   Additional testing is done by planting experimental disk piles, resulting in a request for an additional $60,000.

1902:   In June 1902, the additional appropriation of $60,000 is approved and construction begins.

1903:   William H. Flaherty of Brooklyn, NY is awarded the construction contract at a price of $91,900.

1904:   The 48-foot-square caisson was launched in August.  On September 19, the caisson was towed to the construction site and lowered to the bottom.  On September 21, the caisson was 8 feet into the mud when “heavy seas filled the cylinder” triggering it to lean seven feet.  On October 12, a severe storm pushed the caisson “flat on its side”.  At this time, the contractor stopped construction until spring.

1905:   Contractor William H. Flaherty defaults on his contract and his company goes into receivership.  Construction resumes in the fall with the construction company now in the hands of United States Fidelity and Guaranty Co.

1906:   A plan is developed to bring the caisson to an upright position, using counterbalancing techniques.  A “U” shaped pier was constructed around the caisson to support their housing, a hoisting machine, storage for material and equipment, ten A-frames, three compressors and a steam engine.  By November 20th, the structure had been corrected to within 17 degrees of vertical.  Worked stopped not long after for the season.

1907:   Work resumed in April and the caisson is eventually brought to an upright position.  The caisson was then sunk 82 feet below sea level, 62 feet of that into the bottom.

1908:   The lighthouse is officially commissioned on October 1, 1908. The light was fitted with a 4th order Fresnel lens and a fog bell.

1915:   Keeper John Berentson is awarded the efficiency silver star.

1918:   Keeper Oscar P. Olsen is awarded the inspector’s efficiency star.

1923:   The fog bell is replaced with a foghorn.  On May 1, 1923, the fourth-order lens is changed to acetylene and the keeper is transferred Point No Point Lighthouse.

1964:   In May 1964, the lighthouse became the world’s first atomic-powered light with the installation of a 2 ½ ton atomic-powered generator.

1965:   Just after one year, the generator is removed and returned to the original power.

2002:   The lighthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 2, 2002.

2006:   The lighthouse is sold at auction for $260,000 to a partnership of four couples.


  1. Annual Report of the Lighthouse Board, various years.
  2. Bay Beacons, Linda Turbyville, 1995.

Updated 5/27/2020

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