Fort Washington Lighthouse

Aug. 6, 2019

Fort Washington Lighthouse, Fort Washington, Maryland


Location: Marks a point on the Potomac River with Swan Creek on the north and the Piscataway Creek on the South. The tower is located on the grounds of Fort Washington National Park, on the Maryland side of the Potomac River, across from Mount Vernon.
Date Built: Light established 1857, Current tower constructed 1882
Type of Structure: Converted wooden pyramidal fog-bell tower with detached keepers dwelling.
Builder: Lazaretto Work Shop
Height: 28 feet.
Characteristics: Fixed White
Range: 7 miles
Foghorn: 1400 Metal Bell with single blow every 15 seconds.
Fog Bell Manufacturer: E. J. Codd Co., Baltimore, MD.
Status: Standing and Active

Historical Information:

  • In 1857 a lantern was hoisted on top of an 18 ½ ‘cast-iron pole. * In 1870 the first “true” lighthouse was built. The light was fitted with a sixth order Fresnel lens. The current fog bell tower was built in 1882 to house the 1400 fog bell. 
  • In 1885 the keeper’s house was built near the bell tower. 
  • As the fort grew the gun batteries and pier blocked the light from the second tower. There were several complaints about the quality of the light. 
  • Funds were requested to heighten the light tower, but the request was denied. In an effort to address concerns about the obscured light the 1901 the bell tower was modified to raise the height of the bell tower and a small automated fixed white light was installed. This was supposed to be a temporary fix, but a replacement tower was never built. In 1901 the tower built in 1870 was also torn down. 
  • In 1920 the fixed white light was changed to a fixed red light.
  • In 1954 the station became unmanned.
  • In 1970 the bell mechanism broke and was not repaired. 
  • In 2005 the tower was turned over to the National Park Service. 

Researched and written by Anne Puppa, a volunteer through the Chesapeake Chapter of the U.S. Lighthouse Society.