Then & Now: Historic Mathias Point Lighthouse

“Then and Now” photos are an excellent way to explore the passage of time. In this special post, I have combined one of Lewis Reed’s original photograph’s for “then” and matched it with a corresponding contemporary shot for “now”. Taken approximately 50 years apart, these photos show Mathias Point Lighthouse, then and now.

Mathias Point Lighthouse (THEN): 

Mathias Point Lighthouse was placed at the edge of a shoal jutting out from a major bend in the Potomac River. This point was considered one of the most dangerous navigation problems on the river. In the summer of 1873, the United States naval steamer Frolic went ashore and remained grounded for over two weeks. It was eventually floated out at a cost of nearly $6,000. After much debate in Congress, $40,000 was finally appropriated in 1874. Originally, a day beacon was approved for Mathias Point and light for Port Tobacco Flats. After a delay of almost two years, the two sites were switched.

Plans were drawn up for Mathias Point and the design was like no other screwpile on the Bay. The design included 3 levels, unlike the other 2-level cottages on the Bay. It had a large second floor and smaller third floor which resulted in a “wedding cake” profile. It also had an unusual amount of ornate detailed woodwork. The pilings were angled inward to the base of the lighthouse, which was also different from other screwpile designs. The house was white with a brown roof and green shutters. Construction started in September 1876 and commissioned December 20, 1876.

The light was automated in 1951 and was monitored by the keeper of Maryland Point Light. In 1961 the light was decommissioned the beautiful lighthouse at Mathias Point was dismantled.

Mathias Point Lighthouse 1915

Mathias Point Light, Potomac River, near the Port Tobacco River, Maryland. Photo by Lewis Reed, 1915.

Mathias Point Lighthouse (NOW): The current light is a steel tower on the original screwpile supports and displays a 44-foot high, 6 second flashing green light. The current light can be viewed from the Mt. Bethel Recreation Center at Mathias Point in Virginia. As of 2020, it is still an active aid to navigation.

Mathias Point Lighthouse

Mathias Point Light in the Potomac River in Maryland is no longer standing, now a beacon.

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About Reed Brothers

I am a co-owner of the former Reed Brothers Dodge in Rockville, Maryland. Lewis Reed, the founder of Reed Brothers Dodge was my grandfather. We were a family-owned and operated car dealership in Rockville for almost a century. I served in the United States Air Force for 30 years before retiring in the top enlisted grade of Chief Master Sergeant in July 2006. In 2016, I received the Arthur M. Wagman Award for Historic Preservation Communication from Peerless Rockville for documenting the history of Reed Brothers Dodge in both blog and book format. This distinguished honor recognizes outstanding achievement by writers, educators, and historians whose work has heightened public awareness of Rockville’s architectural and cultural heritage, growth and development.

2 responses to “Then & Now: Historic Mathias Point Lighthouse”

  1. Edward F Hyman says :

    Jeanne,
    Thanks for your latest post regarding the Mathias Point Lighthouse and the great 1915 picture taken by your grandfather. I have just recently attended a funeral at old St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Port Tobacco and renewed my interest in this sleepy part of Maryland. I never knew that navigation was so hazardous at this point on the Potomac thus requiring a lighthouse.

    BTW – the ship that ran aground there in the summer of 1873 was the USS Frolic, formerly the USS Advance and the (Confederate blockade runner) Advance. A lot of history in old Maryland that Lewis Reed appreciated I think.

    Best Regards,
    Edward F. Hyman
    Rockville, Maryland

    • Reed Brothers says :

      Hello Edward,

      So happy you enjoyed the post! For whatever reason, I think my grandfather seemed to be drawn to historical events and landmark locations.

      I appreciate you reading and commenting!

      Sincerely and wishing you good health,
      Jeanne

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