Mathias Point Light

Sept. 17, 2019

Mathias Point Light, Potomac River, near the Port Tobacco River, Maryland

Screwpile style lighthouse, hexagonal shape, built in 1876.


Name of Lighthouse:  Mathias Point Shoal
Location:  Potomac River opposite the mouth of the Port Tobacco River
Date Built:  1876
Type of Structure:  Hexagonal, three level, screw-pile
Foghorn:  Fog bell
Appropriation:  $40,000
Status:  No longer standing

Historical Information: 

  • In apparent surprise to the Lighthouse Board, a Congressional appropriation of $9,000 was received in June 1872 to construct a lighthouse in the Potomac River at Shipping Point by Quantico Creek.   An engineering survey determined that this was an inappropriate location and the money was returned with a request for a new appropriation for two lights to be built 24 miles down the river.  One was to be at a major and dangerous bend named Mathias Point and the second near by at Port Tobacco Flats.  An appropriation of $40,000 was received in 1874.  Initially a day marker tower was approved for Mathias Point and a light for Port Tobacco Flats.  However, construction was delayed for almost two years and during this time the sites were switched.  Construction commenced in September 1876 and, since screw-pile lights were pre-fabricated off site, the light went up quickly.  It was commissioned December 20, 1876 and exhibited a fifth order Fresnel lens.  The design of this lighthouse was unique among screw-piles on the Bay.  It had three levels and a great amount of detailed woodwork.
  • The light was automated in 1951 and was monitored by the keeper of Maryland Point Light.
  • In 1961 the light was decommissioned and dismantled.

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