A century of service

Lighthouse turns 100

Central Whidbey throws a birthday party this weekend for one of its venerable, visible residents.

Music, tours, conferences and fun will help celebrate Admiralty Head Lighthouse’s 100th birthday Aug. 22 and 23.

“This weekend will be a great time to listen to fun, lively music, see friends and relive history,” Gloria Wahlin, lighthouse volunteer coordinator, said.

The stucco-and-brick lighthouse, on the grounds of Fort Casey, started operation in 1903, replacing an earlier wood-frame lighthouse that had been in service since 1861. In addition to aiding navigators, the lighthouse was home to several lightkeepers and their families. After the lighthouse was decommissioned in 1922, it became military housing for families of officers stationed at Fort Casey.

In July of 1927, the Fresnel lens was removed and packed for shipping; the lantern room was removed and taken to New Dungeness Lighthouse. What happened to the lens is a mystery. However, while researching the lighthouse, volunteer Don Roth found a fourth order lens with the same configuration at the U.S. Coast Guard Station in Port Angeles.

After almost a year of discussions, the Coast Guard loaned the lens to the state park system for one year. Last month, a crew packed the lens and brought it to Whidbey Island.

“The lens is a beautiful piece of work and we are ecstatic to have it on loan,” Wahlin said.

In the 1950’s the lighthouse was abandoned and sat derelict for years. In the 1970’s it became a part of Fort Casey State Park and in 1992, WSU volunteers became keepers and custodians of the lighthouse. The building has been preserved and dedicated volunteers worked to restore the building to its former glory.

Today, Admiralty Head Lighthouse is one of Whidbey Island’s most loved landmarks.

Admiralty Head Lighthouse may be a landmark but it’s also a fun spot to spend time. The view from the lighthouse tower is spectacular and well worth the climb on the spiraling staircase. Winds off the waters make the bluffs excellent kite-flying locations. Sunday, Whidbey Kiteflyers will give demonstrations. Kids who complete the History Hunt will receive “frustrationless” kites to decorate and launch.

Wahlin said the History Hunt will be a fun way for children to learn lighthouse history. The hunt will send kids and adults up and down, inside and outside the lighthouse, searching for answers to questions about the lighthouse and Whidbey Island.

Researchers, authors and artists will sign their works and present conferences on different aspects of the lighthouse from its design and construction to the lives of those who kept the light shining. Seattle artist Teresa Saia of Studio Siena will sign copies of her Admiralty Head Lighthouse commemorative poster. Rarely seen collections of quilts will be on display, and there will be a silent auction of watercolors by the Northwest Watercolor Society. Sunday, the winner of the centennial quilt will be announced. The one-of-a-kind quilt was created by Greenbank quilter Doris Northcutt. It depicts Admiralty Head Lighthouse and is on display in the lighthouse.

The centennial has drawn plenty of regional interest from Seattle, Sequim, Oregon, Mount Vernon and Port Townsend. People with connections to the lighthouse are coming from as far away as the East Coast and as close as Coupeville.

“Lots of descendents of families who lived at the lighthouse still live on the island,” Wahlin said. “We’re happy to have such connections close and be able to hear their stories.”

But the weekend isn’t just for history buffs. “We want everyone to come out and help celebrate,” Wahlin said. “Whether you bring your family out here often or you’ve never seen the lighthouse, we want people to come see the treasure we have.”

There will be free parking at Fort Casey State Park Saturday and Sunday.