Fort Washington Light

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Fort Washington Light
Ft washington light.PNG
Fort Washington Light (USCG photo)
Fort Washington Light is located in Maryland
Fort Washington Light
Fort Washington Light is located in the US
Fort Washington Light
Location Fort Washington Park on the banks of the Potomac River
Coordinates 38°42′44.3″N 77°2′12.8″W / 38.712306°N 77.036889°W / 38.712306; -77.036889Coordinates: 38°42′44.3″N 77°2′12.8″W / 38.712306°N 77.036889°W / 38.712306; -77.036889
Year first constructed 1882
Year first lit 1901
Automated 1954
Construction wood frame
Tower shape pyramidal tower
Height 28 feet (8.5 m)
Range 8 nautical miles (15 km; 9.2 mi)
Characteristic flashing red

Fort Washington Light is an unusual lighthouse located on the banks of the Potomac River on the grounds of its namesake fort. Although there has been a lighthouse on this location since 1857, the current light was converted from a fog bell tower in 1901.


1857 Cast Iron Light Pole at Fort Washington - emplaced near the shore

Fort Washington projects into the Potomac River where the river turns north, and in 1856 Jefferson Davis, in his capacity of Secretary of War, authorized the construction of a lighthouse on the fort property, to be maintained by post personnel. Minimal funds were appropriated, and a temporary cast iron tower was constructed the following year. Almost immediately this light was found inadequate and in 1870 a 16-foot (4.9 m) replacement tower was constructed in Baltimore and erected on a site closer to the water. This tower had a sixth-order Fresnel lens.

In 1882 a wooden fog bell tower was erected, and in the following years a keeper's house and various other structures sprung up around the old tower, largely obscuring it. In 1900 a request was made to build a third, taller tower, and as a temporary expedient, a light was added to the fog bell tower, sitting on a platform attached near the top. The replacement light tower was never built, and the converted fog bell tower continues in service. Over the years the 1870 tower, the keeper's house, and the surrounding buildings were all demolished. The tower is readily visible to visitors to the park in which it stands, though it is closed to public access.

In 2017, a 12-year-old Virginia boy famously founded the Potomac Foundation. Part of their mission is to obtain this historic site to be under the ownership of the foundation. So far, attempts to contact Fort Washington by the Potomac Foundation have been unsuccessful.

1857 Cast Iron Light Pole in front of circa. 1913 Wooden Light House


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