Timeline: Mathias Point Lighthouse

1873:   The United States naval steamer Frolic went ashore near Mathias Point, MD in the summer and remained grounded for some time. The U.S. Lighthouse Board recommends an appropriation of $40,000 to build a lighthouse at this extremely dangerous part of the Potomac River.

1874:   Congress appropriates $40,000 to build a lighthouse or day beacon at or near the vicinity of Mathias Point or Port Tobacco Flats, MD on June 23.

1875:   The Lighthouse Board determines that the best location for a lighthouse is on Port Tobacco Flats, and a day beacon will be located on the shoal off Mathias Point.

1876:   The ironwork for the lighthouse is completed and stored at Lazaretto Depot, Baltimore, MD. The Lighthouse Board change their minds and plan to construct the lighthouse at Mathias Point and the day beacon at Port Tobacco Flats. The hexagonal lighthouse fitted with a fifth-order lens is first exhibited on December 20, 1876.

1882:   The roof is repaired, and the structure painted. A wrought-iron band, 4-inches wide by 4.5-inches thick is placed around one of the sockets, which was broken by ice floes in the winter of 1880-1881.

1884:   Approximately 1,500 cubic yards of riprap stone is placed around the side of the lighthouse facing up the river to protect it from future ice floes.

1888:   An additional 362 cubic yards of riprap stone is added to the original riprap, extending towards the channel in September.

1894:   The fuel platform is repaired, and new landing ladders are installed.

1900:   New model fifth-order lamps are installed, and various repairs are made.

1918:   The lighthouse is damaged from ice floes. It is decided to add an additional 500 tons of riprap stone to the existing ice breaker. The work starts on November 10.

1919:   500 tons of riprap stone is added to construct a new ice breaker and build up an existing ice breaker. The work was completed on April 15.

1940:   The keeper and assistant keeper were removed from the lighthouse on February 6, due to dangerous ice. A temporary white acetylene light was installed approximately 35-feet above water

1951:   The lighthouse is automated.

1963:   The lighthouse is dismantled, and a metal skeletal tower is erected on the top of the existing screwpile foundation.


  1. Annual Report of the Lighthouse Board, various years.
  2. Annual Report of the Secretary of the Treasury on the State of Finances, various years.
  3. Forgotten Beacons, Patrick Hornberger & Linda Turbyville, 1997
  4. Daily Press, February 9, 1940

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