In the mid-19th century, Alexandria, VA was the third
busiest port on the Chesapeake. In 1852, $5000 was appropriated
to build a light at Jones Point, just south of Alexandria.
The lighthouse grounds included the original southern
boundary stone for the District of Columbia.
The lighthouse, built by Charles Church, was a wooden
residence with a lantern room on the roof. A white
light was displayed from the fifth-order lens.
The light went into service on May 3, 1856.
In 1858, the light was powered by gas piped in from
the city of Alexandria. Erosion was a problem
at the lighthouse - today the light is very near the river
and protected by riprap. Erosion and water leaking into
the lines made the gas supply unreliable - the station
reverted to oil lamps in 1900. The light color was changed
to red, but reverted to a white light in a signal tower
100 yards from the lighthouse in 1919 due to its proximity
to Alexandria's red light district!
In 1926, a steel tower with a fixed light was placed off Jones Point.
By this time, erosion had changed the shoreline to the extent
that the original lighthouse was no longer useful. The original
light was decommissioned and placed under the care of the Daughters
of the American Revolution (DAR). DAR restored the lighthouse
and placed a caretaker at the light. The steel tower
itself was automated in 1934 and discontinued in 1962.
Before World War II, the Army Signal Corps moved into the area
surrounding the lighthouse. From 1936 until after the war, the
DAR was unable to access the station. The lighthouse fell into
disrepair, and was used for target practice.
Today the exterior of the lighthouse has been restored, and is
part of Jones Point Park in Alexandria.
The park sits beneath the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, which links
Virginia and Maryland. The local DAR continues
to be involved in restoration and preservation of the lighthouse.
Bay Beacons, Turbyville pp. 88-91
The Lighthouses of the Chesapeake, de Gast p. 47
Lighting the Bay: Tales of Chesapeake Lighthouses, Vojtech p. 167