The Joshua Thomas House is long gone, replaced by the modern, chalet style house at the end of the lane. Joshua Thomas, the renowned "Parson of the Islands," lived here from 1799 until about 1825.
The Tangier Town Hall is a former US Navy Spotting Station and was moved to this site from north of the airstrip. It was originally used as a spotting station for the Navy's target range on the southwestern side of the island, where target ships were placed for bombing practice by aircraft. It is here that the ability of an airplane to sink a ship, even at night, was first proven, marking a turning point in modern military strategy.
In 1920, two target ships, the Alabama and the Indiana, were set in place off the western side of Tangier. During World War I, the possibilities for air power had come to light. After the War, the Army and Navy were at loggerheads over whether and how to use this new technology. General William "Billy" Mitchell (1879-1936) was the foremost advocate for air power. General Mitchell made the then outlandish claim that an airplane could destroy a battleship, rendering the conventional Navy obsolete. Eventually, he convinced the government to allow his theory to be tested, and Tangier was the place. The target ships were in place and Mitchell was given a chance to destroy them with
Mitchell's crews were based out of Langley Field in what is now Hampton, Virginia. Starting in February 1921, they flew up the bay to the target ships for practice. Hazy weather caused problems for the pilots.
In late June 1921, two planes collided in mid-air, killing both pilots. General Mitchell convinced engineer Lawrence Sperry to address the problem of flying with poor visibility. Sperry invented the artificial horizon, the critical device still used by pilots today for instrument flight.
On September 23, a 11:00 PM, Mitchell's men conducted the first night bombing attack of a ship from the air, attacking the Indiana. The 300-pound bombs started the boat afire. The next critical test was scheduled for September 26, 1921. One ton bombs were dropped from 2,500 feet, and in less than 30 minutes, the Alabama was laid to her rest on the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay. In 1924, the remains of the Alabama and Indiana were sold for salvage and removed. The San Marcos, destroyed by Navy Gunnery exercises in 1911, proved immovable, and her skeleton remains as seen
on the chart.
Joshua Thomas House
Rev. Joshua Thomas
A direct hit on the Alabama - US Navy, 1921
The San Marcos struck by a salvo of shells - US Navy, 1921
Alabama ablaze - US Navy, 1921