Alert: The Point Lookout Lighthouse grounds are now open to visitors. The Lighthouse and out-buildings will remain closed for ongoing exhibit installation, which is anticipated to be completed late 2022. When the installations are complete, this website will be updated, along with notifications made through the Maryland Park Service social media pages.
Point Lookout Lighthouse was built in 1830 by John Donahoo for $3350. No photographs of the original structure exist, but based on records, the original lighthouse was 1 ½ stories tall and about one third of the size that it is today. The two lower rooms that face the bay form the footprint of the original structure. In 1883, the lighthouse was expanded to two full stories and the light was raised to 41 feet above sea level. In 1927, the lighthouse was expanded toward the Potomac River and divided into a duplex so that two families could live in the lighthouse. The kitchen and dining rooms were added to the first floor; on the second floor, directly above the kitchen and dining rooms, the bathroom, two bedrooms (facing the Potomac River) were added.
Keepers of the Light
The first keeper, James Davis, lit the light on September 20, 1830. Unfortunately, keeper Davis died on December 3, 1830, and his daughter Ann took over his duties until 1847. In 1853, Richard Edwards was installed as the keeper, but he too soon died. His daughter Martha assumed the duties until 1855, when she turned the light over to her sister, Pamelia. Pamelia served until 1869, the records indicate that she was removed with no reason given for the removal. Keeper positions were highly political and sometimes subject to the whims of an administration. Most of the records from Pamelia’s term in office were destroyed in the great Commerce fire of 1921. William Moody served two terms from 1869-1871 and 1908-1912. William Yeatman served the longest term 1871 until his death in 1908. His son William served from 1931 as assistant keeper under George Willis, until they both retired on disability in 1939. Robert Fulcher replaced George Willis and served until he suffered a stroke in 1942 and retired on disability in 1943. Herman Metivier served as assistant keeper from 1939-1943 and then as the keeper from 1943-1954. George Gatton served from 1957 until October 31, 1965. The skeletal buoy-like structure off the point was built in late 1965 and was used in conjunction with the lighthouse until January 11, 1966, when Raymond Hartzel darkened the lighthouse for the final time.
Navy, Civilian, and Maryland Park Service Use
When the Lighthouse was removed from service, the United States Navy assumed control of the building and its surrounding area. The U.S. Navy utilized the grounds for a variety of projects until 2006. During this time, civilians and the State of Maryland held the occasional lease on the Lighthouse itself. Few records were kept about occupants of the lighthouse, but former Park Manager Gerald Sword lived in the north side of the lighthouse from 1975 until December 1979. Soon after, the U.S. Navy resumed control of the Lighthouse.
Many renovation efforts have been made since the lighthouse was last in service. Volunteers re-painted the exterior in 1996 and again in 2002. After control of the Lighthouse and associated grounds were given over to the Maryland Park Service in 2006, a volunteer organization, the Point Lookout Lighthouse Preservation Society, began their efforts to maintain and restore different parts of the Lighthouse. Beginning in the summer of 2018, a large-scale renovation project was started by the State of Maryland in order to restore the Lighthouse to its appearance in the 1920’s. The project included extensive exterior and interior renovations to the main building, as well as a complete restoration to the historic 1880’s buoy and coal sheds. These construction portion of these renovations concluded in late 2020, allowing the Maryland Park Service an opportunity to add exhibits to the buildings to provide visitors with future educational experiences regarding the Lighthouse itself, life as a Point Lookout light keeper, and the Chesapeake.