Thanks to the efforts of the United States Army, Pooles Island Lighthouse in Aberdeen, Maryland has been re-lighted after having been dark since it was deactivated in 1939. Without electricity to the island, solar panels were installed to light the modern optic that is now in the tower.
U.S. Army Maj. General Nick Justice, commander of the Aberdeen Proving Grounds where the lighthouse is located, spearheaded the drive to bring the lighthouse back to life as a symbol for what he referred to as the “changing future” of the military base. Justice said, “Lighthouses are so symbolic, almost religious in their symbolism for guiding us.” Referring to the Chesapeake Bay, he went on to say, “We have the oldest one on the bay. It harkened in the industrial age, and we are calling it our ‘light to the future’ as we make major shifts in our infrastructure here.”
The last lighthouse keeper to serve here was Capt. Stephen Andrew Cohee, who was assigned to Pooles Island Lighthouse in 1882. He served at the lighthouse until 1917 when the island where the lighthouse stands was turned over to the U.S. Army shortly after the beginning of The Great War. The U.S. Army continued to maintain the beacon in the tower until it was discontinued in 1939.
The island and the lighthouse have been off-limits to the public because there might still be unexploded bombs on the island from when the island was used for bombing practice. In 1996 the U.S. Army and the U.S. Coast Guard restored the lighthouse. Although there are signs posted warning of fine, imprisonment, and unexploded ordinance, over the years vandals were not deterred. In 1999 vandals broke into the lighthouse and damaged the door that the government had gone to great expense to replicate. After that patrols to the area became more frequent.
Thirty-two descendants of lighthouse keeper Cohee, along with nearly 300, others were on hand to commemorate the relighting of the lighthouse. As one descendant, John Bowman, gathered up a handful of sand and some small stones, he commented that he was doing so to save them for his grandchildren to remind them about their family’s historic heritage.
This story appeared in the
Nov/Dec 2011 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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