by Henry Gonzalez
On Saturday, August 7th – the 232nd anniversary of the establishment of our fledgling nation’s lighthouse service – a local event and ceremony was held in Annapolis, Maryland, to celebrate the inclusion of our very own Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse (TPSL) in the set of Mid-Atlantic lighthouse commemorative stamps. The Society was the catalyst and coordinator for the event, spearheaded by John Potvin, our TPSL Lighthouse Manager, who partnered and collaborated with the U.S. Postal Service’s Annapolis and Baltimore offices, with the City of Annapolis, and with our Chesapeake Chapter to plan and execute the event.
The event was held at the Annapolis City Dock – the same venue where on May 1, 2004, the federal government transferred ownership of the lighthouse to the City of Annapolis under the auspices of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, with the Society having a 90-year no-cost lease to manage all aspects of lighthouse preservation, interpretation, and public operations for the City. The dignitaries and speakers were Anne Arundel County Executive Stuart Pittman, Maryland State Senator Sara Elfreth (who sponsored a $50,000 state bond initiative in 2020 that was vital to the recent completion of the steel understructure work that was done on the lighthouse), Acting Annapolis Mayor Sheila Finlayson, former Annapolis Mayor Ellen Moyer (who was the mayor when the lighthouse ownership was transferred in 2004 and was a strong supporter of the public-private partnership with the Society), the USPS Maryland District Manager Le Gretta Goodwin, and me, as the Society’s Vice President and the TPSL Lighthouse Manager from 2004 to 2019. The Master of Ceremonies was David Gendell, Annapolis journalist and recent author of Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse – a Chesapeake Bay Icon, the only book that has been written specifically about this National Historic Landmark. Dave was also the Master of Ceremonies of the 2004 transfer ceremony.
The afternoon event was held in appropriate “lighthouse weather” of a very light but persistent rain, which did not detract about a hundred members of the public and local media to come join the celebrations, buy sheets of the stamps at the USPS tent/table and have them canceled with a special event cancelation stamp showing a silhouette of the lighthouse. Our Chesapeake Chapter representation was ably managed by former Chapter President Greg Krawczyk, who was joined by several Chapter volunteers to pass out information about the lighthouse, the Society and Chapter, and provide a special TPSL commemorative postcard that Greg designed and had produced, to which the TPSL postage stamp could then be affixed and canceled by the USPS.
The ceremony was kicked off at 2:00 p.m. by Lighthouse Manager John Potvin, who welcomed everyone and quickly turned things over to Master of Ceremonies Dave Gendell, who along with the help of the light rain, kept the speakers on track, finishing the ceremony within 45 minutes by having Postal District Manager Goodwin inviting all other dignitaries to join her in unveiling a poster of the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse commemorative stamp to the applause and cheers of the excited audience.
The Maryland officials spoke about the peaceful environment of the offshore lighthouse, its historic preservation significance to Maryland and its legislature, the great pride of the City of Annapolis in owning this iconic lighthouse, the vision of the City-Society partnership in 2004 and the hard-earned support of the City Council votes at the time. USPS District Manager Goodwin talked about the history of the USPS lighthouse stamp series, going back to 1990, with this being the seventh set comprising a total of 35 lighthouses to date. She stated that the lighthouse stamp series has always been very popular among collectors and the general public alike.
As the former Lighthouse Manager and as a stamp collector myself, I shared how proud I was of this honor for the lighthouse and for all the volunteers that have spent countless hours restoring, maintaining and sharing the lighthouse with the public, and how commemorative stamps like this help tell a nation’s most important history for generations to come. I hope that these attractive stamps will plant a seed in some young person that will eventually grow to become a lighthouse preservationist!
Jeremy D’Entremont is the author of more than 20 books and hundreds of articles on lighthouses and maritime history. He is the president and historian for the American Lighthouse Foundation and founder of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses, and he has lectured and narrated cruises throughout the Northeast and in other regions. He is also the producer and host of the U.S. Lighthouse Society podcast, “Light Hearted.” He can be emailed at Jeremy@uslhs.org