Point Lookout on the Chesapeake marks the mouth of the
Potomac River. In 1825, $1800 was appropriated for a small
light to mark the point. After some haggling with the local
landowner, a site was purchased for $1100.
The lighthouse was built by John Donahoo.
The structure, a small house with a lantern
room on the roof, was first lit in 1830.
A fourth-order Fresnel lens was installed in 1855.
Three women have kept the light at Point Lookout. Ann Davis kept the light until
1848 after the first keeper, her husband James, died after
only two months. Martha Edwards kept the light from 1853 to 1855,
and Pamela Edwards served from 1855-1869.
Pamela Edwards was keeper of the light during the Civil War.
During the war, Point Lookout served as a Union hospital
and a prisoner-of-war camp. The conditions at the camp
were terrible - four thousand prisoners died at the camp
and are buried at Point Lookout. There have been numerous
reports of paranormal activity at Point Lookout,
much of it attributed to the spirits
of those from the camp. Interestingly, none of these reports
came from any of the keepers or their families - reports that the
station was haunted came from those who visited the lighthouse
after it was closed.
In 1872, a fog bell tower was installed.
In 1883, a second story was added to the house, along with porches
on the front and rear. This raised the light from 24 to 41 feet.
The station also became a buoy depot in 1883. The fog signal
was moved, as the new depot buildings blocked the sound of the bell.
In 1888, a breakwater was built to slow erosion at the point.
In 1894, an iron oil house was built, and a new fourth-order
lens installed in 1899.
In 1965, the Coast Guard installed a light on a steel tower offshore.
George Gatton, the last keeper, shut down the lighthouse for
the last time. The property was turned over to the US Navy.
The State of Maryland leased the residence and kept a caretaker
there until 1980, due to problems with the water system that
were not repaired. The lighthouse has gradually deteriorated
due to neglect, except for an annual cleanup for an Open House
sponsored by Point Lookout State Park.
In February 2006, the State of Maryland acquired Point Lookout
by exchanging state 4.45 acres of surplus property for the
4.88 acre lighthouse site. The state hopes to restore the
lighthouse property as an attraction at Point Lookout State Park.
Bay Beacons, Turbyville pp. 76-79
The Lighthouses of the Chesapeake, de Gast p. 59
Lighting the Bay: Tales of Chesapeake Lighthouses, Vojtech pp. 140-145, 163
The Keeper's Log Winter 2004