When it burned to the ground in 1956, some historians say that Maryland’s 1851 Blackistone Lighthouse was destroyed as the result of a stray shell from the nearby Naval Proving Ground, while others, especially those who love conspiracy theories, says it was destroyed from a fire of mysterious origins, and others said it was burned by vandals. Whatever the case, if Josephine McWilliams Freeman, who cared for the lighthouse for nearly 40 years, were alive today, she would, no doubt, be elated that the lighthouse has been rebuilt, over 50 years after its remains were demolished after the disastrous fire.
The many people that were involved in the building of the new Blackistone Lighthouse are to be commended for accomplishing such an amazing feat in such a short period of time after the idea was conceived. Thanks, in part, to a large number of volunteers and donated materials, the completed project ended up costing about one half of what was originally projected.
Reconstructing this magnificent structure was no easy feat, especially since 100-tons of materials had to be brought to the island site. Complicating matters, the construction required permits and permission from a dozen different government agencies.
Nearly 400 people, including former Maryland Governor Marvin Mandel, attended the dedication of the reconstructed lighthouse, a feat that was undertaken by a group called the St. Clement’s Hundred. The group was inspired by the dying wish of Freeman’s granddaughter, who felt that history had passed her grandmother by.
The reconstructed lighthouse is as close to an exact replica of the original structure as could be accomplished, including the wavy glass in the windows, as it would have looked in the 1800s.
The Clement’s Hundred are now turning the Potomac River beacon over to the newly formed Blackistone Lighthouse Foundation, which will care for the long-term maintenance of the lighthouse. They are now planning to furnish the lighthouse with period furniture and will have the docents on hand for public tours during summer weekends.
This story appeared in the
August 2008 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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