Photo credit: Breck Chapman , 01/2004

Property Name: CHESAPEAKE (lightship)
Date Listed: 12/20/1980
Inventory No.: B-3718
Location: Pier 4, Inner Harbor, Baltimore, Baltimore City

Description: Formerly "FENWICK," and "DELAWARE," the 1930 lightship No. 116, once again known by her U.S. Coast Guard designation of "CHESAPEAKE" (WLV 538), is a floating historic museum vessel moored at Pier IV in Baltimore's Inner Harbor near the foot of Gay and Pratt streets. Owned by the National Park Service, but on a 25-year loan to the City of Baltimore until 2006, No. 116 is operated by the Baltimore Maritime Museum, whose offices and exhibits are housed aboard the vessel. As built in 1930, the lightship is a welded steel-hulled vessel 133.3' in length with a 30' beam and a 13' draft. The vessel displaces 630 tons. Built to the characteristic lines of a 20th century American lightship, No. 116's double-riveted hull was constructed to be strong and seaworthy. The design of No. 116 reflected improvements made in lightship design by the United States Lighthouse Service to create a third generation of American lightships. Among those improvements, as embodied in No. 116, were the placement of the hawse pipe in the bow as opposed to immediately abaft of the stem, the installation of bilge keels to reduce rolling, a reduced metacentric height, an increased bow height and sheer, and most importantly a shift from wood to metal hulls and unpowered to powered vessels. An improved version of the first generation of "modern" lightships, No. 116 was a drier, roomier vessel with greater ability to stay on station in the roughest seas. Below decks the lightship was divided into two decks. The lower deck is occupied by the engine room, motor room, work shops, and storage. The berth deck was divided into several cabins and staterooms. The principal feature of the vessel above decks are the two steel masts that mount the lights. The lights are 66' above the water and could be seen for 14 miles.

Significance: The 1930 lightship No. 116, now known by her former designation of "CHESAPEAKE," is one of a small number of preserved historic American lightships. Essential partners with lighthouses as aids to navigation along the coast of the United States, lightships date to 1820 when the first vessel to serve as an aid to navigation was commissioned. Surviving lightships in the United States date from 1902 to 1952, when the last was built and launched. The years 1929 and 1930 saw the construction of several of these vessels and the construction of the first lightships to be powered by Diesel-electric plants. This significant change in lightship power plants and propulsion marked the third generation of lightship design, of which No. 116 is the best preserved example. Only four other third generation lightships, No. 111, No. 114, No. 115, and No. 118, survive, none of which are in as good condition.




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