2023 found Jack and Tobi “Out West.” We weren’t quite on the Pacific coast as we had been way back in 2008 at Cape Meares, Oregon, but almost. The POINT WILSON lighthouse, in the Washington state town of Port Townsend, was the 17th lighthouse at which we have had the good fortune to be volunteers. Washington state has several dozen lighthouses, some of them on the Pacific ocean, but many more on the “inland waterways” formed by the Strait of Juan de Fuca, leading in from the ocean, to Admiralty Inlet, and then into the big open waters of Puget Sound (think Seattle and Tacoma). Point Wilson is located right where the Strait of Juan de Fuca joins Admiralty Inlet.
The photo above is a great overview of the light station. As is the case at many locations, the lighthouse in the photo is not the first one that was here. That one, first lit in 1879, was a “cottage style” light that sat on the roof of the two-story keeper’s house seen in the background of this photo. Finding it too low, and not bright enough, the present lighthouse replaced the first one in 1914. The ‘”tower” was an extension of the large structure built to house two internal combustion air compressors that sounded the “fog horns” in times of limited visibility of the light. Also seen in the photo is one of the two galvanized iron “Oil Houses” built to store the volatile kerosene used in the lamp.
The photo above shows the entire light station, including several of the buildings that were added during the years it served as a Coast Guard facility. Mount Baker, one of the main peaks in the Cascade Mountains is 65 air miles away, yet looks like it is right across the Inlet.
Unlike many lighthouses, Point Wilson still has a classic “Fresnel” lens in its Lantern Room, however this lens is not the one still in use. This “4th Order” flashing type lens has six panels of prisms. Every other one has a red glass screen mounted on the outside. Once turned by a weight-driven “clockwork”, and later by an electric motor, the lens displayed a a WHITE-REDFLASH – WHITE-REDFLASH – WHITE-REDFLASH pattern as it revolved around. The light from Point Wilson, still an alternating RED – WHITE pattern, is now created by a more modern optic mounted on the outside railing. The ADMIRALTY HEAD lighthouse is across the water from Point Wilson. Its light had a much different appearance to the mariners as they passed between these two lighthouses, thus enabling them to pinpoint their location on the water. The Admiralty Head lighthouse is pictured below.
The Point Wilson lighthouse is now cared for by the U.S. Lighthouse Society, with headquarters at nearby Point-No-Point lighthouse. Other volunteers provide lighthouse tours on a regular schedule. One side of the “keeper’s house”, a duplex residence, as well as another station building once used as housing by Coast Guard staff, have been nicely restored and furnished and are available for vacation rental. Contact the Society at USLHS.org for information. www.uslhs.org