Looking back while looking forward at Point Wilson
If you're looking for an opportunity to give back to our wonderful Olympic Peninsula community – especially one that's fun and rewarding – you couldn't do better than joining the enthusiastic volunteers who are working to ensure that the historic Point Wilson Light Station is preserved, restored, and open to the public. No matter your skill set or interest, there's almost certainly something on this project that will spark and hold your interest.
That might sound like an empty brag, but it's true. Just have a look at what volunteers did at the light station in 2022. I bet there's something that could benefit from your skills and interest, something you'd find rewarding, too.
Let's begin with opening the lighthouse to the public.
We welcomed visitors for tours on Saturdays and Sundays from late April through early October. On each of those days, a rotating crew of four or five volunteer docents helped folks understand how lighthouses work and why they are important. They recounted the history and role the Point Wilson lighthouse has played and continues to play in this community. They opened the lighthouse each morning, tidying things up and closing the place down each evening. They managed the lighthouse gift shop and the flow of visitors, ensuring everyone was safe, and tried to answer the many questions asked. And, of course, they had fun working with one another and being the lighthouse expert for the people they interacted with.
At the end of the season, we counted 8105 visitors! No lie, welcoming 8000+ people is a lot of work; we could use a hand with this. Every one of us would welcome you, if you're interested in helping in 2023.
As important as opening the lighthouse is, it's far from the only thing we did in 2022. As with any historic site, the list of things that need to be done is endless and varied. If lighthouse tours aren't your thing, how about some of these?
The keeper’s duplex – the big white house between the road and the lighthouse – was built in 1879 and, until recently, much neglected. Like any big, old house there are projects large and small that need to be done. But you can't just do them as the mood strikes. Some are important, some less so. Some need to get done before others. Some cost a lot and so require fund raising, many don't. In other words, there needs to be priority planning.
So, working with the US Lighthouse Society's Point Wilson Project Manager, we developed a plan for the season that built upon the biggest restoration project in 2021: A new roof and gull-deterrent system on the duplex, grand projects that needed to be done before almost anything else. With those as a base, the focus this year was to ready both sides for occupancy.
Early in the season Doug, a volunteer, wrote a grant application to the Washington Lighthouse Environmental Programs to make new front doors matching the ones shown in the old construction drawings for the duplex. His application was accepted, and fabrication commenced. At the end of the season, they were professionally installed and fitted with period-correct hardware!
While that was all happening, the bedrooms on both sides got professionally patched and painted. We fully furnished the duplex using furniture provided by generous donors. Volunteers replaced screen doors, front and back, on both sides and worked our way through a long list of tasks needed to ready the Strait side for vacation rental. These included everything from repairing vent fans, replacing lamps, installing smoke detectors, replacing electrical outlet covers, repairing sidewalks, getting a new handrail for the back porch fabricated (we still need to install it), installing a washer and dryer, fixing up the back entry way, furnishing the kitchen with everything a cook could want, decorating the place and so on.
The other vacation rental at the light station is the four-bedroom “Chief's house.” It's been the home-away-from-home for visitors for several years now. But, of course, it also needs on-going maintenance. This season, volunteers repaired and repainted all of the fencing around the house – a big job – and replaced the screen door on the south side. They even found a wooden picnic table for the back yard.
As for the lighthouse itself, with the help of a professional, we cut and trimmed a window between the main room and gift shop to provide a counter on which to work. We set up the gift shop in its new location and improved the variety of merchandise available as the summer progressed.
Volunteers designed, made and installed interpretive panels for visitors in the main room and in the tower. They found and printed historical photos illustrating the history of the lighthouse. They laminated and mounted a variety of lighthouse maps. Then they negotiated the loan of two shore aid lights from the USLHS collection and somehow obtained two small Fresnel lenses and a cylindrical mantel lamp for demonstration. To help with the sometimes long wait for the chance to climb the tower, we created a kids table with stools and stocked it with coloring pages, crayons, and books.
Finally for the lighthouse, a volunteer created a video showing off the station grounds and the lighthouse, while others set up a laptop to play the video on.
All of this was on top of all the on-going maintenance the station needs: yard mowing, weed pulling, planting and watering. You wouldn't believe how much sand comes over the sea wall in winter storms! Every spring volunteers use a tractor, shovels and, finally, brooms to remove it. Then, during the season, the whole lighthouse, including the tower gets swept and vacuumed weekly. It's amazing how much sand comes in on people's feet.
In addition to opening on weekends, we ran a host of special events and activities. On April 6 and 7 we had exchange visits with Admiralty Head Lighthouse volunteers. We celebrated National Lighthouse Day on August 7 with a picnic and open house for the public. On August 19-21 we hosted International Lighthouse/Lightship Weekend for ham radio operators. We were at Port Townsend's Wooden Boat Festival September 9 through 11 with a booth explaining what's going on at Point Wilson and finally we hosted Downtown Port Townsend's "Haunted Histories & Mysteries" on October 28 and 29.
And I'm sure I missed a bunch. (Sorry, volunteers, if your project or event was left out!)
As you can see, there were lots of opportunities for different-skilled folks to help with this important project last year. Looking forward to the coming season, there will be, I'm sure, many more. If you'd like to see this lovely Port Townsend icon restored and open to the public, join us, we'd love to have you. Just click here to let us know what sparks your interest.