Built in 1836, the Piney Point Lighthouse and keeper’s quarters are located 14 miles up the Potomac River from the Chesapeake Bay. Prior to this, a lightship was stationed in the area since 1821 to mark dangerous shoals at Piney Point. This beacon stands preserved today as a witness to a bygone era of high society where many from Washington DC and beyond would travel to Piney Point for vacation.
In 1835, Congress appropriated $5,000 to construct a lighthouse and keeper’s quarters that would replace the lightship. This contract was awarded to master lighthouse builder, John Donahoo, for the contracted price of $3,888. In December 1835, approximately 2.6 acres were purchased from Henry and Charlotte Suter for $300 for construction of the lighthouse.
The circular tower stands 35 feet tall from its base to the coping and the walls are 3 feet 10 inches thick at the base and 2 feet 3 inches at the parapet. This lighthouse was the tenth of the 12 lighthouses built by Donahoo in his lifetime. The original lighting apparatus consisted of 10 lamps with 15-inch reflectors producing a fixed white light which was first exhibited in September 1836. In 1855, this lighting apparatus was replaced with a fifth-order Fresnel lens which has since been removed.
The keeper’s quarters were a 20-foot by 30-foot one-story house containing a dining room, fireplace, parlor, and cellar with an attached kitchen. In 1884 a second story was added to the structure.
The light was decommissioned in 1964 and in 1980 the Coast Guard transferred ownership to the Saint Mary’s County Department of Recreation and Parks.
Time and tide had taken its toll by the time preservation efforts of the Piney Point Lighthouse began in earnest in 1990 by the Museum Division of St. Mary’s County Department of Recreation and Parks. The lighthouse was restored, and the outbuildings were renovated, and preservation efforts remain ongoing. The lighthouse tower and keeper’s quarters are open for regular tours during visitor museum hours of operation and offer a stunning views of the Potomac River and the Piney Point area.
- Keeper Bio: William Yeatman, Jr.
- Keeper Bio: Martha Nuthall
- Keeper Bio: John W. Nuthall
- Timeline: Piney Point Lighthouse
- Piney Point Lighthouse
Head Keepers: Philip Clark (1836 – 1840), Henry J. Heard (1840 – 1845), Charlotte Suter (1845 – 1846), William B. Taylor (1846 – 1849), John W. Nuthall (1849 – 1850), Martha Nuthall (1850 – 1861), Robert J. Marshall (1861 – 1865), Henry Stainbrice (1865 – 1869), Noah Wilson (1869 – 1873), Elizabeth C. Wilson (1873 – 1877), Helen C. Tune (1877 – 1883), Thomas W. Costin (1883 – 1910), George W. Costin (1910), William K. Slacum (1910 – 1911), Loch W. Humphreys (1911 – 1912), Henry C. Wingate (1912 – 1914), Joseph F. Talbott (1914 – 1916), Henry C. Wingate (1916 – 1919), William Yeatman (1919 – 1931), William M. Goeshy (1931 – 1955), Beatrice Goeshy (1955)
From Baltimore/Washington, DC Area: Take 495/95 to exit 7a (Route 5 south to Waldorf). Follow Route 5 south through Leonardtown to Callaway. Turn right on Route 249. Drive 9 miles to Piney Point making a right onto Lighthouse Road for 1.4 miles to the end and the parking area for the lighthouse.
From Virginia: Take State Route 301 to 234 east to Leonardtown. Turn right on Route 5 South through Leonardtown to Callaway. Turn right on Route 249. Drive 9 miles to Piney Point making a right onto Lighthouse Road for 1.4 miles to the end and the parking area for the lighthouse.