FORT WASHINGTON LIGHT
Fort Washington National Park, Maryland
Located on the grounds of Fort Washington, along the banks of the Potomac River, the Fort Washington Light was originally established in 1857 as a lantern atop an 18-1/2 foot cast-iron pole. Found to be inadequate, in 1870, a 16-foot tower, built in Baltimore and outfitted with a sixth-order Fresnel lens, was erected close to the river.
In 1882, a wooden fog bell tower was built to house a 1400 pound fog bell and, in 1885, a keeper’s house was built nearby. Over the years, expansion of the fort caused the light from the 1870 tower to become obscured, and complaints about the quality of the light were received. Although funds were requested to heighten the tower, the requests were denied.
Image from US Coast Guard website
In 1901, the height of the bell tower was raised, and a small automated, fixed-white light was installed until a replacement tower could be built. However, it was never constructed. The 1870 tower was demolished in 1901.
The fixed-white light was changed, in 1920, to a fixed-red light. The station has been unmanned since 1954, and was turned over to the National Park Service in 2005.
The red triangle, with the “80” on it identifies it as a channel marker for vessels navigating the Potomac River.
According to the Lighthouse Spotter's Guide, the Fort Washington Light is the only surviving fog-signal tower of its type on the Chesapeake Bay.
When we visited the location on May 24, 2009, the lighthouse was undergoing historic
preservation, which explains the scaffolding surrounding the tower.
1882, the year the bell tower was built.
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