It’s one of the mid-Chesapeake Bay’s most iconic sites: Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse, the last remaining screwpile lighthouse in its original Bay location. And it’s finally getting the TLC it deserves.
The lighthouse will receive the first of many new steel beams and tie rods later this week or early next week, depending—as is always the case on the Bay—on weather and wind conditions.
But after what has been a test of patience, preservation foreman John Potvin and Henry Gonzalez, the lighthouse manager and Vice President of the U.S. Lighthouse Society, couldn’t be happier.
“It IS happening,” exclaimed Potvin.
Since Bay Bulletin reported on the plans for the project in July, this Bay Bulletin writer made an up-close visit via standup paddleboard.
The project has already had its share of challenges, including the unexpected, $50,000 replacement of the lighthouse’s privy and adjoining wooden support beam, never-ending fundraising, and, just last week, the beams mistakenly painted fire-engine red instead of the historically-accurate rust red.
The significance of the zinc-coated, oven-baked beams and tie rods that will replace the deteriorated existing ones goes far beyond a structural fix.
For Potvin, Gonzalez, and the countless volunteers who have spent their weekends painting the lighthouse’s rails, giving public tours, and more, the restoration reflects the commitment to save a 144-year-old National Historic Landmark that is truly one-of-a-kind.
“Thomas Point Lighthouse is a true symbol of the history of Maryland and the entire Chesapeake Bay,” said Potvin, who cherishes being able to see the lighthouse from his home in Annapolis.
“Just imagine what it’s seen in its 144 years – oyster wars, trade ships carrying any and every good imaginable, military ships being deployed to far-off lands, and so much more. I want my grandchildren and their children to know this history, so preserving it is incredibly important to me.”
Gonzalez shares the sentiment, calling Thomas Point “an essential part of preserving the commercial history of the Bay.”
Countless others show the same passion: Lon Slepicka, chief woodworker, Tom Cagle, a former Bay pilot who has carried tour guests since 2007, and Howard and Cathy Lewis, who’ve served as volunteers for 15 years and decorate the lighthouse for the holidays each year. At the inaugural Keep The Light Shining Gala this past Saturday, the Lewises called the lighthouse an “icon of the Bay.”
The sold-out fundraiser event included a live auction, a cake from Charm City Cakes, and music from the Eastport Oyster Boys. Most importantly, it raised $32,500 for the lighthouse’s restoration.
There’s still a long way to go for Thomas Point, with roughly $100,000 in additional funds required to cover the cost of replacing all steel beams and tie rods by 2022 – again, pending Mother Nature.
Anyone who wants to support the restoration can do so through the Save the Thomas Point Lighthouse GoFundMe page.