Friday Focus: Point Lookout Lighthouse Preservation Society

Photo credit: Lisa Kane

Photo credit: Lisa Kane

At the southernmost tip of St. Mary’s County is the Point Lookout Lighthouse, a historical landmark that has stood since 1830. Today, the preservation and maintenance of the lighthouse is managed in part by the Point Lookout Lighthouse Preservation Society, Inc., a nonprofit foundation started in 2006. As the organization prepares to host its annual “Feel the History 5k” race this weekend, we spoke with Chuck Kohls, Treasurer and Volunteer Coordinator for the Society.

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)

A: We were founded to assist in the preservation of the Point Lookout Lighthouse when it was transferred from United States Navy ownership to the state of Maryland. Unfortunately, the state park did not have funding to maintain, let alone restore, the historic structure in Point Lookout State Part at the confluence of the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay in St. Mary’s County.

We hold open houses so visitors can see and learn about this landmark. We also give special tours to groups of interested persons. In addition, we hold ‘preservation workdays’ when our volunteers meet to do a variety of tasks such as cleaning the house, painting, yard maintenance and repairs needed to prevent further deterioration. We also hold fundraising events and have a small gift shop open during open houses to raise funds for the restoration of the lighthouse. Since the lighthouse is considered haunted by many authorities on the subject we also hold ‘Paranormal Investigation’ nights, where individuals and groups have several hours of nighttime access to conduct their own investigations. These are very popular and have proven to be a good fundraiser.

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?

A: It sounds so simple but we were able to raise the necessary funds to purchase and install a new flagpole to replace the 50 plus year old wooden pole that was rotting and becoming unsafe. Just seeing the flags fly when we are open brings a big smile to my face.

But, I think our most rewarding moments are when we talk with of visitors and provide them with an understanding of the history and importance of this gem.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Because the lighthouse is state owned we are limited in what we can do with the structure beyond emergency repairs and maintenance until the Maryland Park Service finalizes their plans and the General Assembly provides funding to accomplish the restoration. If we had to go it alone, it would be many years before we could tackle the myriad repairs that are necessary to turn it into a proper museum for all to enjoy. Some such repairs would be a total rewire and replumb of the house and installation of a modern HVAC system.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: Open House from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on November 1.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: Send an e-mail to volunteer@pllps.org or visit us during an open house and talk to me. We can use all types of volunteers of all ages. Currently, we have two elementary/middle school aged volunteers who come with their grandmother and great aunt. We also have two octogenarians who are regulars.

Community Bank of the Chesapeake is proud to support the Point Lookout Lighthouse Preservation Society as a sponsor of their 4th annual “Feel the History 5k” race this Saturday, October 11. Registration for this event is still available online at http://www.feelthehistory5k.com/Register.html. Participants may also sign up at the event.

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