Baltimore's Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse helped ships safely navigate into the city's Inner Harbor along the Patapsco River for more than a century. Not only did the lighthouse serve as an important purpose for Maryland's shipping industry, it became one of the city's most iconic landmarks. Today, you can discover a piece of Baltimore history and discover its local flavor with a visit to the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse.
By the mid-1800s, it became clear that ships needed assistance in order to pass safely from the Chesapeake Bay, up the Patapsco River and into the Baltimore Harbor. Bolstered by the recent construction of a screwpile lighthouse at Brandywine Shoal in the Delaware Bay, plans were made to construct the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse in the early-1850s.
The Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse was only the second screwpile lighthouse in the United States and the first built in Maryland. Its construction proved to be a boom for Baltimore manufacturing because many parts were made in town, at the Murray and Hazlehurst iron foundry. Seven Foot Knoll began to the light the way upriver in 1855.
After opening, Seven Foot Knoll required the constant attention of a lighthouse keeper. Three lighthouse keepers lived and worked at Seven Foot Knoll, rotating shifts to allow each keeper 8 days off per month. Duties of a keeper included lighting the coal-powered light from sunset to sunrise, cleaning the lamp, and winding the fog bell's machine every 45 minutes during foggy weather.
Life at Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse proved tough for many. Most historians agree that retaining keepers at the lighthouse proved tough because the living quarters became too cold during the winter. Eventually, a previously-removed stove was rebuilt, improving cold-weather conditions
Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse's final keeper, Thomas Jefferson Steinhise experienced a bit of fame after he participated in a daring, sea rescue. In August 1933, a Nor'easter churned its way up the coast, putting Maryland's shore in danger. During the storm, a tug boat capsized near the lighthouse. Steinhise rowed a small boat to the shipwreck, saving five men before the arrival of additional help.
Unfortunately, following Steinhise's tenure, no other keeper would live and work at the historic Baltimore lighthouse. Lighted buoys and range lights aided ships in navigating the river. By 1948, the light became automated. Sadly, Seven Foot Knoll began to quickly decline and it closed in 1969.
In the 1980s, the City of Baltimore stepped in, saving Seven Foot Knoll from demolition. By barge, the lighthouse was moved to the Inner Harbor for restoration. The city rejoiced at saving this landmark and descendants of Keeper Steinhise participated in the restoration.
Though no longer operational, today the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse is one of the oldest remaining Chesapeake-area lighthouses. Now located on Pier 5 in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, it is open to the public and free to tour. A visit to Seven Foot Knoll offers visitors an education in Maryland lighthouses and maritime life.
With its barn-red colored siding, the lighthouse remains one of Baltimore's iconic landmarks. In addition to its informational museum, residents visit Seven Foot Knoll simply for its stunning views. Head to the lighthouse just in time to catch the sunset.
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