Admiralty Lighthouse needs help to upgrade lens

An old lens needs a modern makeover so it can keep illuminating the night sky over Admiralty Inlet.

“Our Bulls Eye fourth-order Fresnel lens is the jewel within the jewel,” said Peggy Scalf, president of The Keepers of Admiralty Head Lighthouse, a nonprofit organization that raises funds to restore and keep the lighthouse open to the public. “But the old lens is really showing its wear.”

“Over the years the lens was lit with whale oil, lard oil, kerosene and finally, today, by electricity for display,” Scalf said. “The caulking has deteriorated and some of the individual prism pieces have been damaged by variable heat. Major repair by professional restorers is needed.”

Value of the lens is estimated at $250,000.

The Keepers organization is piecing together funding for professional restoration later this summer or fall.

“We hope community groups and individuals will step forward and help match a $3,000 grant the Coupeville Lions have pledged to this project,” Scalf said.

Total cost to bring in the restoration crew is about $23,000, but the Keepers hope to trim it to $14,000 by providing transportation and accommodations. They will also supplement the restoration fund with money raised from the Washington Lighthouses special license plate.

To make a gift to the lens project, contact Gloria Wahlin, lighthouse coordinator, at 240-5584 or Or mail your contribution to Keepers of the Lighthouse / Lens Project, c/o Gloria Wahlin, WSU Extension – Island County, Coupeville, WA 98239.

The current lens at Admiralty Head Lighthouse served most of its life at Alki Point Lighthouse, and was later moved to Admiralty Head to replace the missing original. In 1957 the Island County Historical Society and Washington State Parks undertook major restoration of the lighthouse, which included reconstruction of the iron and glass lantern room. Since the original lens was missing, they brought in a similar fourth order replacement lens from Alki Point.

For 50 years the lens has been displayed and sometimes activated to show residents and visitors what life was like in the age of the tall ships and the heyday of Puget Sound lighthouses.

The original lighthouse at Admiralty Head was activated in 1861. The current lighthouse was built in 1903 and decommissioned in 1922.

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