On Saturday November 30, 2002, in a post Turkey Day (Thanksgiving) celebration, the Turkey Point Light in Elk Neck State Park, Cecil County, Maryland was re-lit after a 2 year and 7 months absence after being decommissioned by the Coast Guard in April of 2000. Attendees of this special event were bused from the Rogue’s Harbor parking lot out to the lighthouse. Normally it is a 1.7-mile hike out to the lighthouse from the Turkey Point parking area. Due to the numbers of people that attended this event, the small Turkey Point parking area would have easily overflowed rather quickly. Busses started running about 3:30p.m. Around 2:00p.m. that afternoon rain showers and overcast skies threatened to dampen the spirit of the event. However, just as the busses were starting up, the weather cleared for the remainder of the evening.
Those who were out at the light early had the chance to not only peek inside this light, but climb to the top. This was a rather precarious climb up two steel ladders, but well worth the climb as this lighthouse is rarely open to visitors. One of the goals of the Turkey Point Light Station Inc., the organization formed by President Dean Rice in 1995, is to replace the current ladder system with a wooden spiral staircase. The group is hoping to start work on the stairs by early next spring or summer.
As the group of visitors grew, they were treated to refreshments compliments of the Turkey Point Light Station Inc. volunteers who staffed both the refreshment table and the merchandise area. Commemorative shirts and key chains were available as well as many other Turkey Point Lighthouse items. Profits from the sales of these items will go into the funds for the staircase project.
While waiting for the 5:30p.m. re-lighting time, visitors were treated to a beautiful sunset that gave the tower a rosy glow. As the sunset, the temperature dropped and the wind picked up so that many visitors used the tower as shelter from the weather. Finally, after dark, the time had come. Following a rendition of the national anthem, the light was turned on with resounding approval from the crowd. The flashing pattern established by the Coast Guard in 1948 was once again an established feature of this light station.
The Turkey Point Light Station was constructed in 1832 by John Donohoo of nearby Havre de Grace, Maryland. Donohoo was involved in the building of several other lights in the Chesapeake Bay area. Built atop high bluffs overlooking the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, this 35-foot tall tower was once accompanied by a keeper’s house, bell house and several other service buildings. Today only the light tower and oil house remain on the site. The light was electrified in 1943. The last light keeper, Fannie May Salter, retired in 1948 and in the same year the light was changed from a fixed white light to a flashing light as it became an automated light. During the 115 years when a keeper was stationed at the light, women were keepers for 89 of those years, thus earning the lighthouse the name of “The Lady’s Lamp.”
With the re-lighting of the light, the Turkey Point Light Station Inc. members now look forward to many upcoming projects. While replacing the tower stairs is the next project, the group would also like to reconstruct the keeper’s house, which was torn down in 1971, and run electricity out to the station, maintaining a museum of the history of the light station within the house. This has been estimated at well over $275,000. To help raise funds for these projects the group has been very active in obtaining a special Maryland automobile license plate, exclusive merchandise including prints, throws, shirts, pins and ornaments as well as corporate sponsorships and grants.
For more information contact the group at: Turkey Point Light Station Inc., P.O. Box 412, North East, MD 21901. Phone: 410-287-8170 or email to: firstname.lastname@example.org Or visit them on the web at www.tpls.org
This story appeared in the
January 2003 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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