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Piney Point Lighthouse

Updated on November 13, 2014

Summer Retreat for Presidents

On the shores of the Potomac river sits this beautiful little white brick lighthouse. It has been called the "Lighthouse of Presidents" since it was used as a presidential summer retreat during the 19th century.

On a visit to Maryland we stopped by this lighthouse so I could photograph the lighthouse and the grounds. We were there in the early morning and I really enjoyed walking the grounds and taking photos in the early morning light.

The lighthouse is open to the public and there is also a museum and gift shop.

photos by mbgphoto

Historic Details


Piney Point lighthouse was built in 1836 by John Donahoo. Donahoo built many of the first lighthouses along the Potomac and Chesapeake Bay. His designs were very cost effective and Piney Point was the 10th of 12 lighthouses that Donahoo designed. Initially Piney Point had a fixed white light which consisted of 10 lamps and 10 reflectors. In 1855 a 5th order fresnal lens was ordered from France and this made a big improvement to the light. It changed the light from white to yellow and increased the visibility for mariners. The light was automated to an electric light in the 1950's.

Donahue also built a one story keepers dwelling near the lighthouse. It was rather small and in 1884 a second floor was added to the building. The keepers job was eliminated once automation came to the lighthouse and in 1964 the lighthouse was decommissioned.

information on Piney Point was gathered from Lighthouse Friends at

I created a postcard out of the photo I took below.

Guiding Ships along the Coast

Fog frequently obscured the treacherous coastline near Piney Point and a bell tower was added in 1880 to help this problem. The bell tower was next to the lighthouse tower. This tower deteriorated over the years and has since been torn down.

Piney Point Lighthouse
Piney Point Lighthouse

Popular Retreat

Piney Point is located 14 miles up the Potomac river from the Chesapeake Bay. Because of it's proximity to Washington D.C. Piney Point was a popular retreat from 1820-1910. Presidents James Monroe, Franklin Pierce, and Theodore Roosevelt were all known to use Piney Point as a getaway. Other Washington notables that visited the retreat were Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun and Daniel Webster.

We were at Piney Point at mid morning when I took this photo. You can really see the size of the lighthouse from this photo. It is really fairly small compared to many lighthouses. There is a boardwalk that goes from the lighthouse to the keepers house and then on the dock by the river.

Read More about Maryland Lighthouses

I finding it fascinating to read about lighthouses. There is so much history in these beacons of the sea.

Maryland's Lighthouses (Images of America: Maryland)
Maryland's Lighthouses (Images of America: Maryland)

Beautiful images of Maryland lighthouses.

Mayland has several different styles of lighthouses.

Lighthouses of Maryland and Virginia
Lighthouses of Maryland and Virginia

This book gives you an introduction to the lighthouse along the coasts of Maryland and Virginia.


Where is Piney Point?

This map that was on the lighthouse grounds give you a perspective of where the lighthouse is located at the southern end of the Potomac. You can see how the Presidents could arrive there in short order from the White House in Washington D.C.

View from the Dock

I  like this view taken from the dock.  It was the best way to capture both the lighthouse and the keepers house.
I like this view taken from the dock. It was the best way to capture both the lighthouse and the keepers house.

Reflections make great Photos

I love trying to capture lighthouses reflected in nearby water. This one was a bit difficult because the water was filled with plants, but I still think the reflections adds interest to the photograph. To capture some good reflection shots you need to have the sun at just the right angle in the sky or capture it on a cloudy day. This photo was taken in the early morning.

Miniatures - great for collectors

I'll have to get one of these for my collection. I love having small miniatures of the lighthouses I have visited.

Spoontiques Lighthouse - Piney Point, MD
Spoontiques Lighthouse - Piney Point, MD

Piney Point would be a great addition to a lighthouse collection.


I have visited many lighthouses and don't really have any one favorite. I love the variety of lighthouses in Maryland. There you will find the typical conical type lighthouses like Piney Point, but you will also find some unique screw-pile lighthouses and a few cupola style lighthouses.

Do you have a favorite lighthouse? - stop by and leave me a note

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    • Lorelei Cohen profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 3 years ago from Canada

      Your photographs of lighthouses always leave me breathless. I have such a deep connection to the element water. Beautiful.

    • IanTease profile image

      IanTease 4 years ago

      I've always been fascinated by lighthouse and this great lens was really enjoyable. If i had to pick one lighthouse it would be the one at the Butt of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland as my family are from there.

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 4 years ago

      I use to travel along Potomac river all the time when I happened to be on Washington DC. Ones I lost my camera as I dropped in the river in the cataract part which is a little north of W. D. C., but I didn't know about this lighthouse, so I added to my list. Thanks for the map, now I know exactly where it is.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 4 years ago from Canada

      I find lighthouses so very fascinating. It always amazes me the staircases within them and how healthy the people who work within them must be to go up and down those many stairs.

    • captainj88 profile image

      Leah J. Hileman 5 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

      My favorite is St. Augustine, FL, but Piney Point looks like a beautiful spot.

    • LissaKlar LM profile image

      LissaKlar LM 6 years ago

      I really love the West Quoddy Lighthouse in Maine. But my interest in lighthouses was just sparked a couple years ago so I haven't seen a lot in person. This one is interesting and squatty and fat and I probably have a good chance of seeing it because my sister lives down there. Love this lighthouse lens. Great job as usual.

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image

      Wednesday-Elf 6 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      Love your photographic collection of lighthouses. This one at Piney Point is just as interesting as all the others I've seen. My favorite lighthouse has to be the Tybee Island (GA) lighthouse because I lived on Tybee Island for 13 years and my daughter got married at the TI Lighthouse! Lots of good memories. :-)

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 6 years ago from United States

      What a very interesting, up close shot of this lighthouse! Of course, you had me with the words "gift shop." LOL As always, beautiful!