The first light in 1857, on this location was a cast-iron column erected with a lantern that was hoisted to the top every night. By 1869, this method proved inadequate, and a new tower was constructed in 1870, exhibiting a sixth-order Fresnel lens. In 1882, the present wooden fog bell tower was erected, and a new keeper's dwelling built in 1885. By 1900, fort construction had obscured the light seen by water, and the Lighthouse Board requested additional funds for a new tower. The request was denied, and in 1901, the 1882 bell tower was modified to support the weight of the sixth-order Fresnel lens from the 1870 tower.
The light was later automated and the keeper's dwelling torn down. The sixth-order Fresnel lens is on display at the Oyster & Maritime Museum in Chincoteague, Virginia. The Fort Washington Light is the only fog bell tower left standing on the Chesapeake Bay.
The Chesapeake Chapter United States Lighthouse Society, has restored the tower in recent years with new wood siding, painting and landscape work.