Turkey Point Light

The Turkey Point Light is a historic lighthouse at the head of the Chesapeake Bay on the east coast of the United States. Though it appears a short tower, the 100 ft height of the bluffs on which it stands makes it the third highest light off the water in the bay. It is also known for the large number of women who served as lightkeeper: four of the ten known keepers, serving 89 of the 115 years the light was manned.

Congress appropriated $5000 for this light in early 1833, which was built by John Donahoo and completed in July 1833. He followed essentially the same plan as he had used for Concord Point Light. Acquisition of the land was delayed somewhat by a controversy over valuation. The light originally used eleven wicks and reflectors, but in 1855 a fourth order Fresnel lens with a single lamp was substituted, with the lantern upgraded in 1867 to fit the new lens better. The lighting arrangements were upgraded several times over the years, with electrification coming in 1942. Its automation in 1947 brought about the retirement of Fannie Salter, the last woman lighthouse keeper in the United States. Along with the tower, Donahoo built a keeper's house. Originally a single story, it was raised to two stories in 1889. The site also housed an unusual fog bell enclosure, built in 1888. Due to the height of the bluff, it was decided to put the bell as low to the ground as possible. To accommodate the weights for the ringing mechanism, a thirty foot well was dug and the enclosure placed over them. During World War II a watchtower was placed atop the bell enclosure. After automation, the tower's remote site made it a target for vandalism. An incident in which the tower was broken into and the lens stolen brought about the removal of a large section of the wooden spiral staircase and the sealing of the entry with a steel door. The keeper's house likewise decayed and was torn down in 1972. In 2000 the light was decommissioned and turned over to the Turkey Point Light Station (TPLS) Inc., a non-profit organization which has taken over maintenance of the structure; the light was reactivated in 2002. The land around the station is today part of Elk Neck State Park.


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