August 7 is National Lighthouse Day:
For the bicentennial of the U.S. Lighthouse Service in 1989, the Society petitioned Congress to declare National Lighthouse Day on August 7 – the date in 1789 that the Ninth Act of the First Congress, establishing federal control of lighthouses, was passed and signed by President George Washington.
However, the holiday designation was only for August 7, 1989. More recent efforts to establish August 7 of every year as a national holiday have failed. According to the United States Lighthouse Society:
The lighthouse law should be remembered as an altruistic act of the nation and the first public works program undertaken by the new federal government. The first members of Congress thought the bill so important that they passed the measure even before they got around to establishing pay for congressmen!
But even as an unofficial holiday, National Lighthouse Day is a fitting way to commemorate “the commitment and service of those who tended America’s lights for generations.”
The United States Lighthouse Society is a nonprofit historical and educational organization dedicating to sharing the legacy of American lighthouses and supporting lighthouse preservation. On the group’s web site you’ll find loads of information about lighthouses in general and about specific lighthouses.
Did you know that many historic lighthouses rent lodging in former lightkeepers’ quarters? You’ll find details on the USLS web site about types of lodging available and where these lodgings are offered.
In honor of National Lighthouse Day, here are the four lighthouses (three in Washington, one in Oregon) we have visited since moving to the West Coast.
(Click on any photo to see a larger version.)
1. Point Wilson Lighthouse
Fort Worden State Park
Port Townsend, WA
Point Wilson Lighthouse marks the western edge of the entrance to Admiralty Inlet from the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It’s a landmark for ships entering and leaving Puget Sound.
In 1879 a fog signal building was erected to house a 12-inch steam whistle. Later that year a tower was added to the building that housed a lens that shone a fixed white light visible for up to 13 miles.
The current lighthouse was completed in 1914. The light was automated in 1976 and is monitored by a computer at the Coast Guard Air Station in Port Angeles, WA.
2. Point Robinson Lighthouse
Vashon Island, WA
Point Robinson Lighthouse celebrates its 100th birthday this year (2015). The original Point Robinson Light Station was established by the U.S. Lighthouse Service in 1885.
During the summer tours of the lighthouse by a retired member of the Coast Guard are available between noon and 4:00.
Two Keepers’ Quarters have been renovated and restored and are available for rental. Quarters A is three-bedroom, two-bath, two-story house. Completely furnished, it can hold up to eight overnight guests. Quarters B is a two-bedroom, one-bath, completely furnished house with a sitting parlor. It will accommodate up to six guests. This house has been completely restored to its 1919 historical condition. Both houses feature full kitchens.
These houses are located near the beach in a wooded park with scenic views of Puget Sound, Mount Rainier, and the Cascade Mountains. Both Quarters are a short drive from Vashon Town, which offers shopping, restaurants, a playground, and a movie theater. The town also hosts many local festivals, particularly in summer.
For rental information, click here or contact:
Vashon Park District
17130 Vashon Highway SW
P.O. Box 1608
Vashon Island, WA 98070
3. Browns Point Lighthouse
A light was first erected on a post at the location now known as Browns Point on December 12, 1887, two years before Washington became a state. The first White residents of Browns Point were the lighthouse keeper, Oscar Brown, and his wife, Annie, who arrived in 1903. The original lighthouse was a wooden structure built in 1903 that featured both a lamp and a bell used for fog warnings. Oscar and Annie Brown tended the lighthouse until 1939. More on the history of Browns Point Lighthouse is available here.
The original wooden lighthouse was replaced by the current structure in 1933. The keeper’s cottage, originally built for the Browns in 1903, has been fully renovated. The three-bedroom cottage of 2,000 square feet sleeps up to six people, has a full kitchen, and offers cable television, internet, and wi-fi service. It is available for rental. Furnished with antique furniture, the cottage is a living museum, and renters become honorary lightkeepers responsible for duties such as raising and lowering the flag daily, watering flower boxes, and welcoming visitors to an open house on Saturday afternoons between April and November.
4. Heceta Head Lighthouse
Heceta Head Lighthouse sits 205 feet above the ocean. The light at the top of the 56-foot tower, which was illuminated in 1894, can be seen 21 miles from land and is the strongest light on the Oregon coast.
The lighthouse was constructed between 1892 and 1893. It became fully automated in 1963 and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Restoration of the tower was completed in mid 2013.
Heceta House, the assistant lightkeeper’s house, built in 1893, now offers bed and breakfast rentals and facilities for group events. It is operated by a concessionaire of the U.S. Forest Service. Information is available here.