The lighthouse at PINEY POINT, Maryland, was the first one built on the Potomac River. Its builder was John Donahoo, who contracted with the still fledling Lighthouse Establishment, to construct many of the early lights in the Chesapeake region.
Constructed of rubble stone, it was built in 1836. It is relativley short compared to many, only 28 feet tall, but its light only had to be seen for ten miles or so by ships navigating the Potomac. Like most early lights, built before the advent of the Fresnel lens, its light was produced by a chandelier arrangement of several oil lamps. A fifth order Fresnel replaced the earlier lamps in 1855. The photo at the top of the page shows the present view from inside the lantern. The lens shown, although similar in design and function, replaced the clasic Fresnel lens many years ago.
The keeper’s house adjacent to the light tower was originally a single-story building, but it was enlarged several times over the lighthouse’s active days. No longer an official aid to navigation, Piney Point is now part of a park owned by St. Mary’s County.
The lower photo above shows the second structure that was for many years adjacent to the light tower. Originally constructed to house the large bell that served as a fog signal, as technology changed an air compressor was installed inside. The long “trumpet” that was activated by the compressed air is seen on the side of this second tower.