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Students team up to renovate Admiralty Head Lighthouse

Oak Harbor High School senior Greg Ennis works in his metal shop class. Ennis, along with four other OHHS students, is participating in the lighthouse renovation project. - Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times
Oak Harbor High School senior Greg Ennis works in his metal shop class. Ennis, along with four other OHHS students, is participating in the lighthouse renovation project.
— image credit: Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times

Attracting home buyers to a lot is all about curb appeal -- or so the experts from the Home & Garden Television channel say. And students from all three Whidbey high schools are hoping they’re right. They’ll be working all year to construct a new, high quality lantern house for the Admiralty Head Lighthouse at Fort Casey hoping to create an acceptable home for a new light.

The Admiralty Lighthouse opened in 1903 and served as a home to several light keepers and their families until it was closed in 1922 due to advancing technology. Five years later the structure at the top of the tower, known as a lantern house, was transferred to a lighthouse on the Dungeness Spit in Sequim.

After Washington State Parks acquired the Admiralty Lighthouse in 1956 and opened it to the public, they replaced the lantern house with an affordable replica.

Unlike the original, the current replacement is made of single-sheet steel walls instead of two-layer iron walls and has wraparound plexi-glass windows with artificial panes. Furthermore, it has a poor ventilation system which keeps the tower at uncomfortable temperatures for summer tourists.

This year, metal shop and welding students from all three island high schools will work with community members to restore the lighthouse to its original glory. The students are meeting about once a month to plan and track each other’s progress.

Nichols Brothers Boat Builders in Freeland donated all of the major materials for the project, but the students have to mold them together. The team from Oak Harbor High School will be putting together the midsection of the lighthouse creating a structure of twisted steel rods to fit over the curved window panes.

Sophomore Matt Barrailler said the steel they’re using is a lot thicker than the material the boys are used to working with, so the project will definitely be challenging.

“In order to twist the steel you have to be able to heat it up evenly and we only have one little torch,” he said.

Barrailler has been taking metal fabrication at the high school for two years and hopes to incorporate the skills he’s learning into a career with the military.

OHHS senior Jake Hardenbergh has been taking metal fabrication for three years. Though he agrees with Barrailler that the project will be difficult, he said the final product will be well worth the effort.

“The best part will be the satisfaction of actually finishing it,” he said.

Students from the high schools planned on doing the project last year, but the effort fell through. Jerry Mumper, Oak Harbor’s metal shop teacher, said he’ll make sure that doesn’t happen again.

“It has to get done,” he said. “We’ll do it.”

The boys plan to have the project done by June and will hold a dedication ceremony at Fort Casey to celebrate its completion. John Shoosmith, the WSU Extension coordinator for the renovation, said he was thrilled to hear about the project.

“It’s a really good educational thing,” Shoosmith said. “The students are learning production manufacturing while at the same time improving a historic building. It’s an improvement for us, and it’s an improvement for the state parks; it’s kind of a win-win all around.”

Currently WSU Extension members and the schools are working to raise money for the consumable materials they’ll need for the project like welding rods. Anyone who wants to help can write a check to “Lantern House - LEP,” Box 5000, Coupeville, WA 98239.

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