Last Visited: September, 2007
On May 3, 1825, the Federal Government decided that a light was needed at Point Lookout to warn ships of the shoals and to mark the entrance to the Potomac River, and appropriated $1800 for the project. The owner, Jenifer Taylor, refused the offer of $500 for the land, though he apparently offered to accept this price if he were named keeper. In any case,the purchase was delayed, and eventually a county commission set a value of $1150. Due to the cost overruns for the land purchase, Congress appropriated $4500 on May 23, 1828, and awarded a contract on July 22, 1830 to John Donahoo for $3,050. Donahoo built a single story house which was first lit in 1830. Curiously, construction commenced before the deed to the land was obtained.
In 1854 the light was upgraded with a fourth-order Fresnel lens. The Civil War completely transformed the point. First, the Hammond General Hospital was constructed in 1862 to care for the Union wounded. The following year, Confederate prisoners began to be held at the hospital, and soon Camp Hoffman, a vast prison camp, was constructed, eventually holding 20,000 prisoners, of which some 4,000 died.
In 1873 a fog bell tower was added, and in 1882 a second story was added to the lighthouse, which was enlarged again in 1927. In 1883 a buoy depot was constructed on the south side of the light; this obscured the fog bell, which was relocated to the east end of the buoy depot coal shed.
The light was always served by civilian keepers, even after the light was transferred to the coast guard in 1939. Beginning in 1951 the navy began buying up property around the light, and in 1965 the light was deactivated and the structures turned over to the navy. Civilians continued to live in the house until 1979.
The fog bell tower was moved to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in 1968, and in 2006 the light was turned over to the state of Maryland as part of a land swap deal. That same year the Point Lookout Lighthouse Preservation Society was founded to raise funds for and otherwise maintain the house. Though it remains on navy property, it is made accessible a few days a year and for nighttime "paranormal investigations".
The Point Lookout Lighthouse Complex was officially turned over to the State of Maryland in 2006, and is now part of the Point Lookout State Park, located in Scotland, MD.
At this time, only the lighthouse is open for public tours (see schedule below). A video surveillance system is in use to protect the lighthouse from vandalism and trespassing. The buoy and coal sheds are still in a secured area maintained by the Navy and are not open to the public. The two sheds might be accessible in the future, once the "golf ball" tower has been relocated to an area near the fishing pier.
Two types of tours are offered: daytime tours and nighttime paranormal investigations. No reservations are required for the daytime open house events. The paranormal night-time tours are by reservation only.
Visit the Point Lookout Lighthouse Preservation Society for more information.
Nearest Address: 10350 Point Lookout Rd, Lexington Park, MD
- From I-95/I-495 take exit 7A onto SR 5 south
- Take SR 5 for 73.3 miles into Point Lookout State Park. Once in the park follow the main road to the end. There is plenty of parking near the lighthouse.
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