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Little Fingers from Long Ago


Photo of the inside of an 1870s rimlock door latch showing the mechanism.
An 1870s rimlock is quite a device inside

I stuck the skeleton key into the pantry door keyhole in the assistant keeper's quarters of the 1879 duplex at Point Wilson. By all rights it should have slipped easily into the newly renovated rimlock mechanism. After all I'd just spent an hour taking the whole thing apart, cleaning and lubricating the parts and reinstalling it on the door. It worked perfectly on my bench. But, no. The key wouldn't even go through the door into the lock.


As you may know, an important part of the US Lighthouse Society at Point Wilson's preservation project is to generate enough income to cover the ongoing expense of upkeep on the property. A substantial portion of that income needs to come from vacation rentals. The Chief's house has been serving this purpose for several seasons now. Feedback from guests has been terrific, but one question comes up over and over: "When can we stay in the Keeper's Duplex?"


The answer? Soon. We hope. We're working hard on it. The first thing that needed to be done was to replace the roof on the place. The old one was long since worn out. We did that last September. This year we've furnished the assistant keeper's side and brought in all new bedding. The interior walls have been repaired and it's been completely painted. Now we're working through a long list of smallish projects that need to be completed to turn the long-abandoned space into an attractive and welcoming place for vacationers. Our volunteers are tackling them one by one. (If you'd like to help, please get in touch with us!)


One such project fell to me: Get those old rimlock door latches working again! I'd fixed and reinstalled two of them and replaced a broken keeper -- the metal piece mounted in the door frame that the catch and bolt fit into to hold the door shut. Yay! for Port Townsend's Waste Not Want Not which had one in its drawer full of old door-latch parts. All had gone smoothly until this last step.

Sighing, I removed the rimlock I'd just installed and peered into the keyhole in the door. "What's that thing? And what's it doing in there?," I thought, pushing it out with the key. "A Tinkertoy stick. Little fingers from long ago."



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