Pooles Island Light is the oldest lighthouse still standing in Maryland and the fourth oldest in the Chesapeake Bay area.

Pooles Island was originally named Powell's Island by John Smith, but over the years the name was changed, possibly to reflect the numerous springs and pools on the island. The island was famed in the 18th and 19th centuries for its fertility, particularly for the peaches raised there in the 1880s and '90s. As it lies near the center of the bay near the mouth of the Gunpowder River, it was one of the first places considered for a lighthouse, and in 1824 Congress appropriated $5000 for construction of a light. John Donahoo and Simon Frieze won the contract to build it, the first of many lights constructed by Donahoo. The roughly constructed granite tower and keeper's house were joined three years later by a fog bell tower, the first in the state. In 1857 the original system of Argand lamps and reflectors was replaced by a fourth order Fresnel lens. As part of the establishment of Aberdeen Proving Ground in 1917, Pooles Island was purchased by the federal government, and the light station turned over to the army. The light was automated the following year. In 1939 it was decommissioned, and the surrounding structures were torn down. In 1994 the Army submitted a proposal to designate the lighthouse as a National Historic Monument, with the intent to restore it to service as a private navigational aid. As part of this effort a thorough renovation effort was made to protect and stabilize the structure. According to the website of the Chesapeake Chapter of the United States Lighthouse Society, the Pooles Island Light is "off limits to the general public because the island was used for bombing and shelling practice from 1918 through the early 1960's. There are many unexploded bombs and shells all over the island."

Note to researchers on spelling
Various sources spell (or misspell) the name as Pools Island, Poole's Island, or Pool's Island. For example, nightbeacon.com's "Listing of United States Lighthouses" records this as "Pooles Island (Pools Island)", with one of the alternate spellings in parentheses . Lighthousedepot.com calls it the "Poole's Island Light" . In Lafayette in America (Chicago, 1975), historian Louis Gottschalk writes, "The next day Nicholson's fleet anchored at Pool's Island, about fifteen miles out in the bay, and they arrived at Annapolis two days later...." These variant spellings, though perhaps erroneous, have been in use for a long time. For example, early colonist Augustine Herrman kept a journal including an entry for Friday, October 3, 1659 which begins: "Rowed forward all day. Pass the eastern side of Pools Island near the western shore of Sassafracx River."


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