Lighthouses: Lighthouse Diagram
Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network

Place your mouse over the numbers on the diagram below (or read below) to find out about the various sections and functions of the Thomas Point Shoal lighthouse.

  1. Fresnel lenses, with their carefully manufactured prism systems, began to be installed in American lighthouses in the 1840s. They were equipped with oil-burning lamps until electricity came into use. Many lights today are solar powered.
  2. Thomas Point Shoal lighthouse was activated in November, 1875, and a succession of hardy keepers kept its light burning for more than a century. The light was automated in 1986.
  3. The living quarters of screwpile lighthouses were not as roomy as many land-based keeper’s cottages, but could be fairly comfortable nonetheless. Living space included a bedroom, a day room, a small kitchen and a privy that originally was cantilevered over the side of the wooden cottage.
  4. Many screwpile lighthouses featured a hexagonal wooden keeper’s cottage with a cantilevered deck, but other designs—such as square, rectangular or cylindrical shapes—were also built.
  5. A typical screwpile lighthouse had one and a half stories of living and mechanical space, topped by a lantern gallery that was accessed by a wooden ship’s ladder. The second story rooms included space for water tanks, the fog signal mechanism, and a variety of other equipment.
  6. Hexagonal screwpile lighthouses were built upon a central pile surrounded by six or eight perimeter cast-iron piles. Set on this foundation were beams to support the keeper’s quarters. Numerous girders and diagonally placed iron “ropes” reinforced the assembly and added stability.
  7. Fuel, and even livestock such as cows and chickens, could be kept close at hand on a platform below the keeper’s cottage.

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