Historic Structures

Jones Point Lighthouse, Alexandria Virginia

Date added: October 13, 2016 Categories: Virginia Lighthouse

The Jones Point Lighthouse was built in 1855 by the United States Government as an aid to navigation on the Potomac River. The building was located on the tip of Jones Point, just below Alexandria, Virginia, and 15 feet behind the cornerstone of the District of Columbia.

On April 3, 1855 the United States purchased a lot 30 by 100 feet from the Manassas Gap Railroad Company, and set up the lighthouse. Jones Point was a very narrow wedge of land at that time. In 1861 the United States Corps of Engineers built a retaining wall around the lighthouse and yard.

In 1912 the government reclaimed 46.57 acres adjacent to Jones Point under the June 1910 River and Harbor Act. This area, known as "Battery Cove," was then leased for about 12 years to the Virginia Ship Building Company.

By 1926 the lighthouse was replaced by a light on a tower close by. Thus the lighthouse was deeded by the United States to the Mount Vernon Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution on May 22, 1926. The D.A.R. intended to preserve the building as a historic monument to river travel. The deed, signed by Walter Drake, had been given with certain reservations. In 1929 on the 23rd of October the Washington Quartermaster Depot took Battery Cove. In 1931 a military radio station was installed there, and in 1934 the United States Signal Corps was given control oŁ the cove.

During World War II the Signal Corps fenced in most of Battery Cove and Jones Point, which gave the D.A.R. limited access to the lighthouse for maintenance. In 1944 the entire building was surrounded and the ownership of the lighthouse and its 3,000 square feet of land reverted to the government. The government's action was taken in the interest of national security.

After World War II there were considerable efforts by the Mount Vernon D.A.R. and their representative, Colonel H. G. Outwater, to secure damages and control of the building again. On the 8th of February 1951 Representative Howard Smith presented a bill to Congress to give the D.A.R. the sum of $9,678.10 for "*** settlement of claims of such chapter against the United States for the cost of repairing and restoring the Jones Point Lighthouse, Alexandria, Virginia." The bill was never acted upon.

A Marker was uncovered at the site in 1912. According to tradition, this cornerstone (number 1 marker of the District of Columbia) was set in place on April 15, 1791. The marker stood unharmed through the construction of the lighthouse in 1855, but in 1861 the Corps of Engineers erected a retaining wall around the building and covered the stone. In 1912 the boundary marker was uncovered and a concrete box was built around it. This box had a window in the front to allow viewing and an iron fence for protection.

By 1963 most of the siding, trim and architectural features had been removed from the building. The two chimneys had collapsed and the whole was well overgrown and gutted. The historic boundary marker in front of the lighthouse, which was saved in 1912, was in such a deplorable condition that the concrete box surrounding it had collapsed, the retaining wall and land around it had eroded and the waters of the Potomac were swirling around the very cornerstone oŁ the National Capital.