Exhibits · News

Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse

The Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse during Baltimore’s 2012 Tall Ships Festival. Photo by Candace Clifford

The Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse was originally completed in the Chesapeake Bay in 1856 to mark the entrance to the Patapsco River, an important trade route into Baltimore, Maryland. Unlike most screwpile lighthouses, the house was cast iron rather than wood.

Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse as an active aid to navigation. Photo courtesy USCG

The first screwpile lighthouse was built at Brandywine Shoal, Delaware, in 1850. They soon became a popular construction type in the protected waters of the Chesapeake Bay and Carolina Sounds, often replacing lightships. They worked well where the soft bottom surface could not support a masonry tower and were much less expensive to build.

The tower was moved to Pier 5 in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor in 1988. NPS photo by Candace Clifford, 1989

Unfortunately the screwpile towers, including Seven Foot Knoll, were vulnerable to ice flows and were often damaged in storms. Many were replaced with towers that had more durable caisson foundations.

This 1990 photo shows the newly restored lighthouse. NPS photo by Candace Clifford

Today the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse is open to the public as a museum managed by the Historic Ships of Baltimore.  It is one of three screwpile lighthouses that have been brought ashore as museums. The others are Drum Point Lighthouse at the Calvert Marine Museum, Solomons, Maryland, and Hooper Straits Lighthouse at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, St. Michaels, Maryland.

The last extant, intact screwpile lighthouse still in its original location is Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse near Annapolis, Maryland. This tower is accessible only by boat; however tours are offered during the warmer months through the U.S. Lighthouse Society.

Submitted by Candace Clifford, December 1, 2016

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U.S. Lighthouse Society News is produced by the U.S. Lighthouse Society to support lighthouse preservation, history, education and research. Please consider joining the U.S. Lighthouse Society if you are not already a member. If you have items of interest to the lighthouse community and its supporters, please email them to candace@uslhs.org.

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