Point of Interest - Jones Point Lighthouse

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Jones Point Lighthouse, located at the southernmost point of Jones Point Park in Alexandria, Virginia is a significant and historic lighthouse that was constructed in 1855. Visitors to Jones Point Park love the stories about the lighthouse and its location on the Potomac River. 

The Jones Point Lighthouse is the last remaining riverine lighthouse in the state. 

The shores of the Potomac River have been a lively center of trade since the earliest settlers to the United States. One such settler was Cadwalder Jones, a British trader, and cartographer, who built a cabin in 1699 on the banks of the river. That spot was later named Jones Point Park in his honor. Wheat led to the creation of mills and bakeries in Alexandria at this time, and it of course needed to be moved around the newly created republic. The busy river ports of Georgetown, Washington D.C., and Alexandria formed a backbone of trade and industry along the Potomac. A lighthouse needed to be built so ships could navigate around its dangerous sandbars at night. It wasn’t until 1855 that the light would finally be completed though.

It was first lit the following year by keeper George L. Deeton and remained operational until 1926. The lighthouse itself is a humble rectangular clapboard structure with a circular lantern on top of a pitched cedar roof. On the main floor, there are two large rooms with large brick fireplaces. In the middle of the hallway, a hatch leads to a basement, which contains two separate rooms. Above the main floor is a large room with by a pitched dormer-style ceiling. Finally, a ladder ascends through this ceiling up to the barrel-shaped lantern room, which features ten uniquely shaped windows for the light to shine through.

At its peak, the lighthouse housed the most advanced lens technology available and could be seen from up to 9 miles away, making it a much easier trip for ships to navigate the narrow Potomac banks. The lighthouse was partly decommissioned in 1918 during the construction of a massive shipyard nearby, as the shipyard began to obscure the beam. An automated beam replaced it in 1926. Find out more here.

At various times the lighthouse served a number of purposes including as a communication facility between World Wars. It fell into disrepair during the 1950’s but was reopened and restored to its original state by 1964 where it remains today.

The area surrounding the lighthouse (the park) was traditionally a gathering place for local people. During the summer, fishermen, boaters, and picnickers enjoyed the park setting, and in colder weather, the lighthouse’s lanterns lit up the frozen Potomac for ice-skating. The small buoy shed near the lighthouse was popular for drinking and gambling. More about Alexandria here.

Jones Point Park is open year-round from 6 am to 10 pm daily. Visitors cannot enter the lighthouse, as the interior of the building is unsafe. 


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