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Fishing Battery Light

Aug. 6, 2019
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Fishing Battery Light, artificial island built in 1853, south of Havre de Grace, Maryland

FISHING BATTERY LIGHT

Location:  Fishing Battery Island, South of Havre de Grace, MD, Northern Chesapeake Bay
Date Built:  Commissioned in 1853
Type of Structure:  1 ½ story, 36 x 16 foot, brick dwelling with lantern on roof
Height:  32 feet (original), 38 feet (current steel tower)
Characteristics:  Fixed white light (original light in 1853);  Flashing white, with two red sectors (current steel tower)
Foghorn:  No
Builder:  John Donahoo
Appropriation:  $5,000
Range:  White sector 4 miles, Red sector 3 miles (current steel tower light)
Status:  Standing and Active

Historical Information:   

  • Fishing Battery is a man-made island just south of Havre de Grace, MD in the northern Chesapeake Bay, 2 ½ miles below the mouth of the Susquehanna River. In 1851 Congress appropriated $50,000 for a light to work in conjunction with the Turkey Point and Concord Point lights to guide vessels to the mouth of the river. A contract was awarded in 1852 to John Donahoo. This was the last lighthouse built by Donahoo (out of 12 total) and was the last Maryland lighthouse built under the administration of the 5th Auditor of the Treasury, Stephen Pleasonton. Interestingly, Donahoo had once owned the Island and it had once been known as Donahoo Battery. He brokered the Government’s purchase. The one and a half story brick dwelling, with an old-style lantern on the roof, was completed by early 1853 and outfitted with 5 lamps and reflectors. A keeper was appointed January 7th.In the mid-1850s the original multiple lamp and reflector lighting system was replaced by a sixth order Fresnel Lens
  • In 1864 the lantern was replaced because the original was deemed an old design of “exceedingly defective character”
  • In 1867 the lantern was replaced again (as were those on the Pooles Island, Turkey Point, and Concord Point Lights)
  • In 1899 a fifth order Fresnel lens was installed
  • From 1880 to 1891 the Island was leased by the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries and used for a fish hatchery. They made many improvements, including raising the grade of the island. As a result, the lower floor of the lighthouse had to be removed and re-laid in 1887. At this time the dwelling was enlarged and the lower level may have been redesigned as a boathouse.
  • In 1921 the light was moved to a 38 foot steel tower next to the original lighthouse and converted to acetylene gas. The light was automated in 1939 when the U. S. Coast Guard took over management of all aids to navigation. It now runs off solar cells and batteries and is still active. The original building is now a historic landmark.
  • In 1942 the Island was transferred to the Department of the Interior and is now under the jurisdiction of the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge.

Researched and written  by Matthew B. Jenkins, a volunteer through the Chesapeake Chapter of the U.S. Light House Society.