Lazaretto Point Light

The Lazaretto Point Light was a historic lighthouse in Baltimore harbor. Though long demolished, a replica stands near its original site.


Lazaretto Point, directly opposite from Fort McHenry, acquired its name from a smallpox quarantine hospital which once occupied the point. By the time that John Donahoo began construction of a brick tower light in 1831, the hospital was gone; the name was destined to live on in local naval lore, however, as in 1863 a depot was established around the tower for the construction and resupply of lighthouses throughout the bay. Many screw-pile lighthouses were prefabricated at the depot in preparation for erection at their final sites.

Iron was for a time mined at the point, and industrial sites sprung up around it, leading to years of complaints about the visibility of the light. A fourth order Fresnel lens installed in 1852 provided some improvement, as did a change from red to white aspect in 1870. In 1914 the light was electrified, and the fourth order lens replaced with a 3½ order. In spite of this the light be came increasingly obscure, and the old tower was torn down in 1926, replaced by a taller steel skeleton tower. This tower survived until 1954. By this time the depot had diminished in importance, and it was shut down entirely in 1958, to be replaced by a Rukert shipping terminal.

A replica of the original tower was constructed in 1985 by the Rukert Terminal Corporation in honor of Norman Rukert, Sr., who had entertained the idea of constructing such a replica before his death. The new tower was constructed from blueprints of the original found in the National Archives. Though it sports a small white light, it is not an active aid to navigation.


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