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Maryland's National Register Properties

Tour: Lighthouses (7 of 8)



Photo credit: Skip Willits, 08/1999
Pooles Island Lighthouse
Inventory No.: HA-1846
Date Listed: 2/19/1997
Location: Pooles Island, Harford County
Category: Structure
Period/Date of Construction: 1825
Architect/Builder: Builder: John Donohoo

Description: The Pooles Island Lighthouse is situated on the northwest point of Pooles Island, which is located in the upper Chesapeake Bay. The Pooles Island Lighthouse, constructed in 1825, is a solitary, stone conical tower topped by an iron cupola. It stands approximately 20' from the water's edge. The Pooles Island Lighthouse rises 40'-6" in height. The masonry tower portion is approximately 28' high and the cupola and lightning rod are 12'-6" inches in height. The base of the lighthouse is a broad brick pad supported by wood pilings. This larger foundation distributes the weight of the tower evenly over a larger area and supports the lighthouse. The stone tower is conical with a base diameter of 18' that tapers to 9'-6" at the top. The tower is constructed of randomly laid, rough cut granite blocks, with irregularly sized mortar joints. The granite blocks were quarried locally in Port Deposit, Maryland. The exterior and interior walls of the masonry tower are stuccoed and whitewashed. The lighthouse is accessed through a doorway at the base. This doorway has a large granite stoop and lintel; the original door is missing. An interior circular masonry stairway with central column leads to the light platform. The interior of the structure was lit by three windows located at different heights along the spiral of the interior stairway. These 6/6 sash windows have been restored. A short cast iron ladder leads from the top stair through a trap door to the light platform and cupola above. The cupola is fixed to the top of the truncated conical tower and housed the lighting mechanism. The cupola is 8' in height and is topped by a spherical copper ventilator ball and lightning rod. The light platform door is composed of flat, cast iron decking. The side and roof of the cupola are constructed of metal sheeting supported by a cast iron framing system. A circular cast iron walkway surrounds the cupola and is accessed by two small iron doors in the side of the cupola. The walkway features a single-bar iron handrail balustrade that is supported by 16 iron stanchions. In 1828, a fog-bell tower was erected. In 1857 the original reflecting apparatus was replaced with a 4th-order Fresnel lens. Originally 1 1/2 stories in height, the keeper's quarters was enlarged in 1882. Visible in a 1917 photograph, this building was five bays wide with a central entrance. The first floor was sheltered by a shed-roofed porch, while the second floor contained windows only in the four outer bays. Flush chimneys rose from either gable end of the shallow roof. A single 8/8 sash window stood to the front of the chimney on the second floor of each gable end. A two bay long two-story shed-roofed rear wing with a flush chimney at the end extended the building. A small board-and-batten outbuilding with 6/6 sash windows is visible in an early-20th century photograph. Other buildings on the property included a chicken house, stables, a boat house, barn, sheds, a fog bell tower, and an oilhouse. None of these remain standing. Significance: The Pooles Island Lighthouse, constructed in 1825, is significant for its association with state and federal efforts to provide an integrated system of navigational aids and to provide for safe maritime transportation in the Chesapeake Bay from the early 19th through the 20th centuries. The Pooles Island Lighthouse is the earliest extant lighthouse in the state of Maryland. The lighthouse embodies a distinctive design and method of construction that typified the majority of lighthouses constructed on the upper Chesapeake Bay during the first half of the 19th century. Pooles Island received the first fog signal in the Chesapeake in 1828. It was later replaced with a wooden bell tower. In 1917, Pooles Island was acquired by the U.S. Army to become part of the Aberdeen Proving Ground, and arrangements were made to remove the keeper and automate the light. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1939. Its lighting mechanism was removed at that time, and the property turned over to the War Department. The keepers' quarters was then demolished. While the property is no longer actively shelled by the U.S. Army, the possibility of unexploded ordnance remains, rendering the island unsuitable for visits by the public.
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