Drum Point Lighthouse
Solomons Island, Maryland
- Site Established: 1854
- Current Bldg. Erected: 1883
- Height of Light Structure: 47 ft.
- Focal Plane of Light: 47 ft.
- Active: Yes
- Lens: Fourth-Order Fresnel
- Beacon Visibility: 13 Miles
Historic Significance Score: 3
On August 3, 1854 Congress appropriated $5,000 of funds for the establishment of a lighthouse in the vicinity of Drum Point, Maryland.
For three years a debate went on between the State and Federal Governments on how to transfer a proposed lighthouse property properly from the State to the Federal Government for use with the lighthouse. It was eventually agreed that the Federal Government would be granted 10 acres of land on the southern tip of Solomons Point. This agreement however was never officially finalized and the lighthouse project was delayed for more than 20 years from its inception.
No building could take place on this site until the general assembly of Maryland, in April of 1874, passed an act that was initiated by steamship captains pleas to allow the Federal Government to purchase land from any resident in the state as long as it did not exceed five acres. This act also allowed the state governor to claim title to the limited land of any submarine site. This ‘governor clause’ would pave the way for the establishments and proliferation of screwpile lighthouses in the Chesapeake Bay.
Finally on February 15, 1883, plans were finalized for a screwpile lighthouse to be anchored less than one eighth of a mile south offshore of Drum Point safeguarding the mouth of the Patuxent River.
In late summer of that year, construction was finished on the Drum Point Lighthouse.
Within three years of its completion, on August 31, 1886, the Drum Point Lighthouse witnessed, recorded and survived the second largest earthquake in U.S. history known as the Great Charleston (S.C.) earthquake.
Decommissioned in 1962, the lighthouse was damaged by vandals, neglect and even a fire until it was move off the bay by barge to the Calvert Marine Museum in 1975 for posterity. This move was helped largely by a grant from the Maryland Historic Trust.
This upheaval was done due to the 1974 federal agreement that deeded the lighthouse to the Calvert local government, but not the underlying land.
The lighthouse is only one of four screwpile lighthouse to survive of more than forty that once existed and give historic testimony to this aspect of the Chesapeake Bay culture.
The lighthouse is currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places currently.
Majesty Score: 4
The Drum Point Lighthouse has good majesty. Its screwpile legs stand bolted down to the dock area in the rear of the Calvert Maritime Museum and lifts the impressive octagon structure up off the ground giving it a much stronger presence than if it was ground level.
The strong red and white colors also very much add to its presence.
Water View Score: 2
The relocated lighthouse has a very limited water view. It is located on a small inlet where the water outlet is blocked by a Comfort Inn boat lodge and errand willows growing tall enough to obstruct the view.
That being said, the water surrounding the dock area does really lend itself to beautiful photo op’s and one can easily capture the reflection of the lighthouse for multiple angles.
Preservation Score: 5
Drum Point Lighthouse is one of the most pristinely preserved lighthouses we have seen! It can hold company with the likes of Portland Head Lighthouse and Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse. Extremely pristine!
The greatest treat that this lighthouse trip can offer a lighthouse enthusiast is the opportunity to actually climb through the lighthouse’s lower hatch to enter the lighthouse, as the light keepers did a century ago. This really brings a unique perspective that you will not get any other place in America! Drum Point Lighthouse is the only screwpile lighthouse that offers this to the public.
Each room in the lighthouse has been painstakingly re-created. In fact, Anna Weems Walt spearhead the recreation of the interior of the lighthouse. She was the perfect person to do this considering she was born and resided in the lighthouse. The furniture was based on her memory and she even donated some family china to top off her efforts.
The light is so pristinely recreated it gives the impression that someone could actually live comfortably in the lighthouse today. (See above picture)
Upon talking to the tour volunteer, he informed me that Drum Point Lighthouse is in better shape than its counterpart to the north east, Hooper Strait Lighthouse, because Drum Point Light was transported to the CMM museum completely intact, its three levels in their entirety, upon a floating barge where Hooper Strait Lighthouse was transported to its present position in sectionals.
Surrounding Area Score: 4
The location of Drum Point Lighthouse, and the museum does not really let you enjoy the interior of the town of Solomons Island. The museum is directly off Route 2/4 in the shadow of the Thomas Johnson Bridge.
Solomons Island, once a ship building community, is now a prominent boating center with shops, restaurants and quaint bed and breakfasts. It also has a Riverway Boardwalk that allows a leisurely stroll along the Patuxent River.
Accessibility Score: 5
Drum Point Lighthouse features all and total access! For the price of museum admission, $5.00, a person has full access to the lighthouse and all three floors of the structure. There is a chance that the lighthouse will be closed certain hours of the day to let the volunteers have lunch so make sure you are there at an opportune time. The museum is open daily from 10AM-5PM, please check with the below link for specifics.
The museum also has other sights of interest including the “William B. Tennison”, which is the oldest passenger vessel on the Chesapeake Bay. Other exhibits include marine art, a boat building exhibit and a 15 million year old fossil.
Beacon Score: 4
The Drum Point Lighthouse features, and is fortunate to have, its original fourth order Fresnel lens still in its lantern room. Visitors can get up close to this beautiful lens.
During December of 1899, a dark sector was added to the lantern room. This dark sector encompassed a red glass which was added to a certain side of the lantern room so if mariners saw a red flash, they knew they were positioned in the dangerous shoals off Sandy Point.
Overall Score and Overview: 27
Drum Point Lighthouse is a very worthwhile trip. Visitors can really enjoy a very pristinely preserved lighthouse and really take a step back into time and experience the feel of this lighthouse as it existed.
As mentioned, one of the biggest thrills is climbing through the hatch upon entering the lighthouse as many dedicated lighthouse keepers and their family members did a century ago.
Also worth checking out is the Cove Point Lighthouse. The Calvert Marine Museum also owns this lighthouse and runs shuttle buses both to and from the museum. Visitors can enter the base of this lighthouse and look up the spiraling staircase. This lighthouse is closed October through May. Please check the below link for specifics.