The Hooper Strait Lighthouse - by Monte Morton

The Hooper Strait Lighthouse currently located at the Chesapeake Maritime Museum in St Michaels Maryland, originally stood close to 40 miles south at the mouth of Tangier Sound.

The lighthouse, established in 1867 standing alone out in the bay, stood for less than a decade as harsh winter weather and the pressure of mounting ice against the pilings (legs) under the wooden structure finally caused the house to be separated from its base and drift out into the Chesapeake Bay in 1877.

The keepers at that time escaped the drifting structure by a small fishing boat but faced a harsh overnight fight for survival against frostbite on the freezing bay. When finally rescued, head light keeper John S. Cornwell proclaimed that he would be ready to resume his duty the second a replacement lighthouse was established.

Cornwell would fulfill his promise, as work began on a new Hooper Strait Lighthouse in 1879. By the end of the year, Cornwell had his commission back. The new lighthouse utilized a designed called a “screw pile” fastening. The leg-mounts on which the lighthouse would stand would be “screwed” into the floor of the Chesapeake Bay, providing a stronger and more secure base for the lighthouse.

In the 1950’s the lighthouse at Hooper Strait was automated. It was decommissioned in 1966, leaving the historic landmark open to vandalism and sea corrosion.

The same year, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum saved the structure from being demolished by purchasing it and relocating it to its open-air museum site. The move was accomplished by cutting the lighthouse into smaller parts and barging them up the channel, where they would be reassembled.

Today the Hooper Strait Lighthouse is the most popular attraction at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and lighthouse-lovers are indebted to the organization for saving this lighthouse.

Hooper Strait is one of only three existing, authentic screw-pile lighthouses in America!